In January 2013, I presented a paper in collaboration with Prof. Kevin Hannam at the Active Tourism Conference at Leeds Met. The coference themes are stated below
'The UN has recently highlighted the quickening global trend of urbanization, forecasting that this will accelerate further as developing nations become increasingly urban. This will put extra pressure on urban resources and communities, but will also exacerbate the growing divide between urban and rural areas, in terms of economic and social development. Rural regions are already experiencing fundamental challenges to their ways of life and social fabric, as traditional landbased occupations are in decline and younger and better educated rural residents migrate to cities for greater work, social and cultural opportunities.
Rural tourism offers a possible solution to the problems associated with lost economic opportunities and population decline that accompany the waning of agriculture. Many governments and regional authorities have embraced rural tourism as an opportunity to bring new money into rural regions, stimulating growth, providing employment opportunities and thus beginning to halt rural decline. Rural tourism offers opportunities in terms of accommodation and active countryside pursuits, the latter of which may be well-placed to capitalise on the move away from mass tourism products and a consumer desire for more niche and tailored offerings.
The last 25 years has seen a growth in active countryside tourism as increasingly urban populations seek relaxation and leisure in rural areas. Ranging from traditional countryside pursuits, such as walking, horseriding, and shooting, to the increasingly popular ‘adventure sports’ or ‘extreme sports’, such as snowboarding, windsurfing and kayaking, rural regions offer the required natural resources and quiet, picturesque settings necessary to enable tourists to experience rurality and, frequently, controlled risk and excitement as an alternative to the perceived pressures and constraints of urban life. This may offer rural regions new opportunities for sustainable development.
However, the possibilities of rural tourism to promote rural regeneration have been criticised for being over-stated and unrealistic. Rural tourism has frequently been found to under-deliver in terms of expected economic benefits and job creation, and rural communities may lack the skills and experience required to successfully attract and satisfy tourists. This may be exacerbated in relation to tourism products built around rurally-based sports and leisure pursuits, which often require specialist knowledge, training, and equipment, and familiarity with specific subcultures for marketing and promotion.
This international conference seeks to question the contribution active countryside tourism can and does make to rural regions.'
This is the abstract that Kevin and I successfully submitted.
In Temperley’s Tread – Theorising Walking, Art, Landscape and Knowledge in the Durham Countryside
Dr Mike Collier, University of Sunderland
Professor Kevin Hannam, Leeds Metropolitan University
Walking as a tourism and leisure pursuit in the countryside has been previously researched in terms of its impact on the countryside, its economic value for rural businesses, its contribution to health and wellbeing, considerations of access and regulation, perceptions of landscape and issues of ethnicity, disability and social exclusion. More recent work has sought to theorise the embodied nature of walking activities in terms of the emotional geographies of sensual experiences. The mobilities paradigm has sought to develop this in terms of the multiple connections between walking and other practices of movement. In particular, an engagement with innovative artistic practices has been noted as a way of knowing the landscape in different ways. This paper draws upon this theoretical background in an explicit dialogical meandering through the work of the artist Mike Collier and his artistic and environmental work. His work ‘In Temperley’s Tread - the Birdlife of Durham's Moor and Vale’ comprised a series of five upland bird and wildlife guided walks, staged over four weekends in July 2012 through Durham’s upland summer landscape along a historic route. The inspiration for the project was renowned ornithologist and botanist, George Temperley, who in his introduction to A History of the Birds of Durham (Temperley 1951) suggested a 45 mile upland route to experience the true majesty of Durham’s uplands. These were led by a natural historian Keith Bowey. The wildlife seen and experienced on the guided walks, along with information shared by the perceptions and knowledge of the participants, informed the production of artwork, which will later be exhibited in communities along the route of the walks. The guided walks will also inspire the staging of a series of ‘heritage evenings’ for local communities along the route in Stanhope, Middleton-in-Teesdale and St. John’s Chapel. The over-arching purpose of the project is to take all of those who participated in the walks and related heritage events on a learning journey towards a deeper understanding of, and ultimately a more active involvement in, the conservation of the Durham uplands, from both a cultural landscape and biodiversity perspective. This project has been supported with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Dr Mike Collier is a lecturer, writer, curator and artist. He studied Fine Art at Goldsmiths College before being appointed Gallery Manager at the ICA in London. He subsequently became a freelance curator and arts organiser, working extensively in the UK and abroad. In 1985 he moved to Newcastle to run the Arts Development Strategy at the Laing Art Gallery, where he initiated the Tyne International Exhibition of Contemporary Art. For the last 15 years he has worked in education and is currently Programme Leader for Foundation Studies in Art and Design at the University of Sunderland. Throughout his career, Mike has maintained his artistic practice and he is now based in the High Bridge Studios in Newcastle. He has shown work in a number of one person and group shows in the UK.
Professor Kevin Hannam recently joined Leeds Metropolitan University from the University of Sunderland where he was Associate Dean (Research) and Head of the Department of Tourism, Hospitality & Events. He has published many books on tourism, in particular, Understanding Tourism (Sage) and Tourism and India (Routledge). He has published world-leading research papers in journals such as Annals of Tourism Research and founded the academic journal Mobilities. He has led substantial research projects in collaboration with other European universities. He is chair of the World Leisure Organisation’s Commission on Tourism and the Environment and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (FRGS). He holds a PhD on forest bureaucracy in India from the University of Portsmouth, UK.