The Radical Road - Looking Backwards and Forwards

Damien Wootten has documented streets in England, Scotland and Wales named after historical radical and socialist figures. Accompanying this work are photographs of socialist literature, taken from his own collection, which have been annotated by previous owners.

The work explores notions of radicalism and socialist utopianism. In exploring these themes, Wootten raises valuable questions about the roles such figures had in shaping the streets and communities of Britain, the relevance such names and ideas hold today and what role they will play in the future. The annotations cause these otherwise impersonal documents to gain a deeper meaning - reflecting how radical ideas resonated with the reader.

The Radical Road encourages us to look beyond simply the utilitarian purpose of street names, and to instead interpret them as one of the clearest reminders of Britain’s socialist past, perhaps a warning against historical ‘amnesia’. The annotated books are emblematic of how radical ideas permeated British society. Together, the streets and literature serve as an enduring symbol of Britain’s radical and socialist history. As Britain moves into a new era of change and uncertainty, the work urges us to first look back before looking forward.

The past is not dead, but is living in us, and will be alive in the future which we are now helping to make.

- William Morris