This commission –  a chance to combine a range of contemporary Kent voices with related literature and a bespoke soundscape – is so exciting.’ Marcus O’Dair, Writer in Residence

In July 2018, musician, broadcaster and lecturer MARCUS O’DAIR took up a unique residence in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The residence formed part of a year of heritage focused events, activities and celebrations ‘Head for the Hills’ marking 50 years since the designation of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the 40th anniversary of the opening of the North Downs Way National Trail.

The aim of the project was to capture, through spoken word and music, Marcus’s own reflections on the landscape when he walked the Kent portion of the North Downs Way, and those of local people, spending time in many pubs across the Kent Downs AONB including two days in two host pubs The Plough Inn, Stalisfield and The White Lion, Selling. 

People were incredulous, and not a little envious, when I said I was being commissioned to walk a route that was, by definition, outstandingly beautiful, and that envy didn’t decrease when I explained that I would be obliged to punctuate that walk with visits to rural pubs.

I spent five days walking sections of the Darent Valley Path, the Greensand Way and the North Downs Way – well over 100 kilometres in total. I sought out specific people, such as farmers and archaeologists, for pre-arranged interviews. I also interviewed people I happened to meet in pubs. These ranged from the fruit picker, over from Romania for the summer, to the octogenarian who had lived in the same village all his life – and who still remembers hiding under the desk in the village school during World War Two.“

Marcus shared his experiences, weaving in live music by the composer Andrew Phillips and recordings from the walk including voices and field recordings, at the end of November 2018 in the host pubs.

The project also has a digital legacy to reach a wider audience through History Pin, and various online and audio projects.

Explore the History Pin collection here Marcus O Dair History Pin


Kent Downs Writer in Residence is supported by