‘Brixton: Landscape of a Riot’, Landscapes, Spring 2009, pp.1-20, ISSN 1466-2035
Co-authored with John Schofield, ‘Brixton: Landscape of a Riot’, explores both the obvious and obscured meanings of an urban site of conflict through photography, parliamentary inquiry and poetry. The format of this Landscapesjournal article is a photo-essay, juxtaposing image and text: photographic documentation of contemporary Brixton with both The Brixton Disorders 10-12 April 1981: Report of an Inquiry by the Rt Hon. The Lord Scarman, O.B.E. (1981) and Linton Kwesi Johnson’s poem Di Great Insohreckshan (2002). Photographs identify traces of conflict in the landscape (blocked roads, mended pavements, aging and recent brickwork, new street signs and renamed buildings) while the words of Lord Scarman or LKJ used to suggest different ways of reading the landscape.
Purbrick and Schofield draw upon battlefield and landscape archaeology, revisiting a site of conflict to examine the trace of past human actions. Their photographic work and accompanying critical essay, however, questions what constitutes a landscape archaeology, what counts as an historical event or historical record and considers the location of the trace. Traces of the Brixton Riots are not buried; they appear unremarkable on the surfaces of the streets.But, this article argues, it is possible to see how momentary violence has become incorporated into an urban environment and embedded in the passage of everyday life. It seeks to articulate a relationship between place and history, a matter of concern not only for archaeologists but also photographers, cultural geographers, public historians and heritage bodies.