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.
In the 2017 general election, Jeremy Corbyn, standing on a radical programme, increased Labour's share of the vote more than any other party leader since Clement Attlee in 1945. In the 'Get Brexit Done' election of 2019, this was shattered, with many in Labour's heartlands deserting the party for the first time - as the Labour 'Red Wall' turned blue.
Together, the streets and literature serve as an enduring symbol of Britain’s radical and socialist history. But they also question what role there now is for the ideals of the Left, in it's modern-day pursuit of social justice, egalitarianism and environmentalism - and what relevance that holds for it's once traditionally loyal white working class communities. And us all.
As Britain moves into a new era of post-Brexit change and long-term Covid-19 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 (b.1834)
The past is never dead. It's not even past. - William Faulkner (b.1897)
The future is already here - it's just not very evenly distributed. - William Gibson (b.1948)
The Decay of Capitalist Civilisation by Sidney and Beatrice Webb Published by the Fabian Society and George Allen and Unwin, London First Published 1923, Second Edition 1923, Dutch library book
J. Keir Hardie: A Biography by William Stewart Published by Cassell & Company, London First Edition 1921
Chartist Portraits by G. D. H. Cole Published by Macmillan & Co, London First Edition 1941
The Pillars of Security by William Beveridge Published by George Allan & Unwin, London First Edition, 1943
My England by George Lansbury Published by Selwyn & Blount, London First Edition 1934
A History of Socialism by Thomas Kirkup Published by Adam and Charles Black, London and Edinburgh First Edition 1892
The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 by Frederick Engels Published by George Allen & Unwin, London First Published in English 1887, This Edition 1936
Lenin on Britain by V. I. Lenin Published by Lawrence & Wishart, London First Published 1934, This Edition published in the Marxist-Leninist Library 1941
The Life and Teaching of Karl Marx by M. Beer Published by George Allen & Unwin, London First published 1925, This Edition1934
The Decay of Capitalist Civilisation by Sidney and Beatrice Webb Published by the Fabian Society and George Allen and Unwin, London First Published 1923, Second Edition 1923
News from Nowhere (or An Epoch of Rest) Being Some Chapters From A Utopian Romance by William Morris Published by Longmans, Green and Co., London First Published 1890, This Edition 1910
The Teachings of Karl Marx by V. I. Lenin First published in the Little Lenin Library, 1931 Published by Lawrence & Wishart, London This Edition 1942
Unto This Last: Four Essays on the Principles of Political Economy by John Ruskin Published by George Allen, Sunnyside, Orpington, London First Published 1860, This Edition 1896
Socialism - Utopian and Scientific by Frederick Engels Published by George Allen & Unwin, London First Published in English 1892, This Edition 1932
The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State by Frederick Engels Published by Progress Publishers, Moscow First published in 1884, This Edition 1948
Religion and the Rise of Capitalism by R H Tawney Published by John Murray, London First published 1926, This Edition 1927
Lenin Terrace, Stanley, County Durham, England, January 2015
Vladimir Lenin - Russian Marxist, communist revolutionary and political theorist. Lenin played a leading role in the Russian October Revolution of 1917. He served as Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Soviet Union, 1922 to 1924.