'Dormer' by artist Mary Burke

Imagining the suburbs research event and book launch

The suburbs spread far and wide beyond city boundaries yet are rarely celebrated as places of cultural interest or excitement. The latest edition of the University of Exeter’s short story journal Riptide will tip this perception by publishing a range of creative writing and poetry that evokes different experiences of suburban life.

The theme ‘Imagining the Suburbs’ will shun easy stereotypes and caricatures of the suburbs and instead look beneath the surface of suburbia. Co-editor of Riptide Ginny Baily explained:“The stories and poetry in this special edition reveal the variety and hidden depths of suburban life, portraying the richness and diversity of suburbia in different contexts around the world.”

Renowned writer and broadcaster, Michael Rosen, who is acclaimed for his fiction and poetry for young people has written the foreword for Riptide humorously sharing his knowledge of the suburbs. He will be giving a public talk on 21 June at the University of Exeter’s Queen’s Building at 11am, which explores how his parents never accepted suburban life, while he and his brother found and enjoyed the local dissenting culture that had eluded their parents. Rosen writes: ‘The suburbs were not, and are not what many people have said they are: one culture, one class, one type of house, dull, unchanging. These fascinating stories and poems show a diversity that resists this picture. ‘ 

The talk and special issue of Riptide complements the work of the Leverhulme Trust funded Cultures of the Suburbs International Research Network, whose purpose is to support academic activities relating to the cultural life of the modern suburbs. The events coincide with the Network’s 2014 conference, also on the theme of Imagining the Suburbs, held at the University of Exeter 19 – 21 June. 

The Network is led by Associate Professor of Twentieth-Century Literature Dr Jo Gill at the University of Exeter and is in partnership with the Universities of Kingston (UK), Hofstra (USA), Griffith (Australia), the National University of Ireland, Maynooth and Jain University Bangalore (India). 

Dr Gill said:“According to UN population projects, the world’s suburbs will experience sustained growth during the coming decades. The role of the Cultures of the Suburbs International Research Network is to forge global and multidisciplinary connections in order to address the implications of this growth. Our main interest is in the role that culture plays in shaping and communicating the suburban experience.”

Michael Rosen’s talk 'Exiles and Natives: north-west London 1946-1969’ is from 11am – 12.30 in the Queen’s Building (Lecture Theatre Two) with time for questions and is followed by a book signing. Tickets cost £5 for adults (£3 student concessions), and are available from the Northcott Theatre box office.

Date: 18 June 2014

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