Monday, 20 March 2017

Will Britain, grant Mal Peet, novelist for young adults and passionate believer in the power of reading, a posthumous Carnegie Medal for his last book ?

Mal died two years ago at the age of 67 after a career as a children’s author and especially for teenagers, which he had started fifteen years before. He was suspicious of books that targeted teenagers, on the grounds that “such books usually give off a strong whiff of condescension, although there are, of course, very honourable exceptions.” Now he has been considered for a posthumous Carnegie Medal, after making the shortlist with his co-author Meg Rosoff who finished, published and submitted his novel 'Beck', his coming-of-age tale about a mixed-race boy in America during, the first chapter of which, started and ended with Mal writing :

'His Mother met his father in Liverpool on a frigid night in 1907. She was not a prostitute but in times of need, short of other forms of employment, she would sell herself to men. She never spent the proceeds frivolously, Every last farthing of the five shillings she charged would be spent on rent and on food for her family, which consisted of frail parents, who were addicted to patent medicines, and an older brother who was wrong in his head.
and
A month before Beck’s eleventh birthday, his great-grandparents and his mother and his daft kindly uncle all died in the flu epidemic. Anne (his Mother) was the last to go.
Just before the fever stilled her heart she tightened her clasp on the boy’s hand and whispered, “There’s three pound seven shillin’ put away. It’s in …”

He was an odd-looking kid with his mother’s green-flecked hazel eyes and a deep shade of his father’s colouring and hair that stuck out all ways. He was taken to the Catholic orphanage run by the methodically cruel Sisters of Mercy. The shame of his mixed race meant that he was also victimised by other orphans. He lived in that dire and loveless establishment for three and a half years; at the end of that time he had become a little hard bastard who had learned to cry silently and dry-eyed. Christian names were not used in the orphanage and eventually Beck forgot that he had one.'

Mal's own story began unpropitiously when he was born Malcolm C Peet, a post-Second World War baby boomer in the autumn of 1947 and brought up in the small town of North Walsham, Norfolk, where his father, an ex-sergeant-major from the War worked in Caley's Norwich Chocolate Works and his mother, Grace, was a part-time bookkeeper for a number of Walsham traders. He lived in a small house on the new Millfield Council Estate with his parents, younger brother and sister and grandmother.

An early reader, he quickly consumed the book collection at Millfield Primary School and was then, at the age of eight, was given special dispensation to join the town library. It was just one room in a basement off a narrow alleyway, but it seemed to him like a subterranean treasure house. He recalled :"I'm not sure that, when I read Treasure Island for the first time when I was about ten, I understood all the words or what was doing on, but that didn't stop me reading it and I certainly didn't forget it."

In addition to this he recalled : "My parents got me a book a month from a mail-order company; my best memories are of new books arriving; unwrapping the parcel; studying the pictures on the cover; smelling the book, they smell different; putting off starting to read until I couldn’t bear it any longer" and "I had a serious addiction to comics. When I had a newspaper round, I used to sit in a bus shelter and read all the comics before I delivered them, which got me into trouble more than once and made me late for school."

When he later reflected on his early reading he said that he : "didn't quite know why, because we weren't, by any means, a literary household, but I just got the hang of it quite young and then I devoured books because, I think it was escapism, because books were my way out. I lived in a very crowded and slightly, more than slightly, argumentatively household. Getting you own space was difficult and books were my window, they were my hiding place and my mode of transport. I went to Treasure Island and I went to Outer Space and fought the First World War with Biggles and it was another world, simply that."

"One of the places I had to read was a tall tree at the end of our garden that had the top lopped off it and I used to climb up it with a book and a sandwich and spend the afternoon perched on the top of this tree with a book. Nobody could get me. Even if it was time for homework my Mum couldn't climb trees, so she couldn't get me down from there."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFFmH5bl8ws&t=0m37s

Although he once described his childhood as "impoverished, miserable and colourless"when he looked back, it wasn't unremittingly grim : "We had very little money and there was no culture, but now I realise that I did have an amazing amount of freedom. We would go off on our bikes all day into the woods and no-one would worry."

After passing the 11-plus exam he went to the Paston School in town, an old-fashioned boys' grammar and recalled that  : "It was pretty dreadful; the kind of place where the masters, it was an entirely male place, went around in black gowns like daylight vampires and the Head kept a display of canes on his study wall and used them not infrequently." Fifty-four years later he had the school in mind in his semi-autobiographical, coming-of-age novel aimed at the 14 plus, 'Life : An Exploded Diagram.' in which young Clem attends Newgate Grammar School where he endures humiliation, bullying, sacracasm, violent games, caning, snobbery and 'ferocious patriotism.'

His passion for and ability in soccer, led him to play for his school, his town and his county and needless to say, at that same school : "and this is a familiar story, I suppose – there was one teacher who inspired and encouraged me to write. Although I still really wanted to draw cartoon strips" and he often handed in school history essays as cartoon strips. His passion for kids comics expressed itself forty-five years later, when he originally envisioned his award-winning first novel for young adults, 'Keeper', as a graphic novel.

Mal's childhood clearly left him with an indelible sense of 'place' which infused 'An Exploded Diagram' : "North Norfolk is where I grew up; I’ve cycled most of the roads on that map. The locations named in the novel are barely-disguised real places; sometimes I didn’t even change the names. But for several reasons it’s the perfect setting. North Norfolk is – was – pretty remote. In post World War Two Britain, great social and cultural shiftings were gathering momentum, but their vibration didn’t quite reach us up there. We lived a little apart from the historical flow; we were, as Clem observes, still recognisably feudal. In some of my earlier books, I devoted a great deal of energy to creating an imaginary country: its history, landscapes, society, all of that. Writing out of memory was just a little bit easier."

Mal was 15 when the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the USA and USSR and the world to the brink of nuclear war and he was aware that : "East Anglia was home to a number of British and American bases for nuclear-capable bombers, and we would have been a prime target for Soviet missiles" and he "was incandescent with outrage at the thought that the Yanks and Russians might convert me to ash before I’d got my hands on the prematurely voluptuous Avril Samms at number 64. Now, the whole episode seems like a weird dream, an interruption of normal service. We’d sit and watch the terrifying news on the telly, then get comfy for ‘Dixon of Dock Green’."

At the age of 17, he resisted his parent's idea that he should go to 'Art School' and, encouraged by his English teacher, applied for and gained a place to read English and American Studies at the new University of Warwick and in 1965 “escaped Norfolk” and that "very dull town which I managed to survive by means of football, bikes and books."

At Warwick he began drawing cartoons in earnest, first for his friends and then for the university newspaper and having graduated in 1968 and unsure as to what to do next, he decided to try his hand at academia, stayed in Warwickshire for another two years, got a Masters degree and then, at the age of 23, moved to Devon. It wasn't long before he was lured into teaching by the luxury of a regular salary, but, afflicted by a low boredom threshold and “a very low tolerance for routine” he quit his college job in Exeter after a few years and tried to scratch a living as an illustratorwhich failed, along with his first marriage.

In his late twenties, he now worked variously : in a hospital mortuary where he "didn’t much like the night shifts;" "hung out with a bunch of gypsies who did dodgy tarmac. Once we did an abattoir; what with the heat and the carnage it was an authentic vision of Hell;"as a plumber and a builder and even, for a time, worked on a road-building crew in Canada,"consisting of mad Newfoundlanders, North American Indians, Black Americans and exiled Irishmen. I met a love-sick man in Ontario who wanted someone to share the drive to Vancouver where his girlfriend was. That week-long drive across Canada was one of the best and worst things I have ever done."

It was now that he met his future wife, Elspeth Graham, who persuaded him that in spite of his having no formal training in art, he ought to use his talent for caricature and cartooning to become an illustrator. In this phase of his life the two of them made their living writing school texts and literacy books for children and young adults including "rather academic text-books about poetry."

Not unsurprisingly, given his love of literature, he supported the work of England's 'National Literacy Trust', for whom 'he was a 'Reading Champion.' 

The political events of the 1980s, when he was in his thirties, clearly had a bid impact on him and in his Carnegie Medal Acceptance Speech in 2006 for his historical novel 'Tamar', he lamented what he saw as "Disconnection or alienation from the past" which he thought had "political consequences" and cited : "A clear example is the popularity of Margaret Thatcher's mutilation of the trade unions in the 1980s. Many of those who supported her in this seemed to have forgotten or not known that they owed the social benefits they enjoyed - health, education, social security - to the trade union movement. Now I do not think that there is a single young person of my acquaintance who has any knowledge of the social history of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries."

Mal confessed that : 'Like many people, I suspect, I had no real interest in children’s literature until I had children of my own. It'll sound a bit evangelical, I suppose, but I truly believe that there are few things more important, useful and protective than sharing stories with your children. After their bath, heaped into a big, deep chair, doing the voices, discussing the pictures, softening your voice as the rhythm of their breathing deepens... You start to understand why certain books work and others don't.'

It was when Mal had more than a hundred Easy Reader books behind him and had declared himself to be "bored stiff" by them, that Elspeth encouraged him to write his first novel. 'Keeper', published in 2003, which won the 'Branford Boase Award.' It had been inspired some years before by the Senior Fiction Editor at Walker Books, Sally Christie, who told him that if he ever wanted to write a book, she was looking for stories about death and stories about football and to which he replied : "Well, maybe I should try writing a story about a dead footballer.

 'Keeper,' a tale of soccer and the supernatural, lent itself to the National Learning Trust's 'Reading the Game Project' to get boys reading and Mal gave readings from the book at schools and soccer grounds all over the country. In his work to promote a love of reading in children he was steadfast in his belief that the most important thing is to cultivate a desire to read, not to impose it.

Initially he imagined the book as a graphic novel but found that : "No-one would publish it as a graphic, too expensive, not a big market for graphic novels in Britain, etc., etc. So I sulked for about a year." The the Easy Readers intervened and kept him busy for about four years while the book "lurked half-forgotten in a drawer." He was then persuaded to write it in straight prose in a process, where, he recalled : "What I did was imagine the novel as a series of pictures, as in a graphic novel, and describe what I saw."

His second novel, 'Tamar', published in 2005, a powerful love story about Special Operations Executive agents parachuted into Nazi-occupied Holland to work with the Dutch resistance in the Second World War, demonstrated that he was comfortable writing for older teens and avoided him being pigeon-holed as a ‘football writer.’ His research took him on drives around the Dutch countryside on what he called “location shoots”, giving fuel to the intensely visual imagination that now informed his writing process which he expressed as : “I have to make little movies, I have to sit and film.”

He followed this with 'The Penalty' in 2006, which again starred Paul Fustino, the footballing journalist in 'Keeper' and which was shortlisted for the 2007 'Book Trust Teenage Prize'. Paul appeared again in 'Exposure' in 2008, which was an up-to-date version of Othello set in South America, with contemporary celebrities succumbing to the tricks of Shakespeare’s original and which won the 'Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize.'

In 2006 Mal felt very strongly about the the Tony Blair and George Bush war on religious fundamentalism and said in his Carnegie Medal Acceptance Speech that : "Fundamentalism - of any variety - is a form of illiteracy, in that it asserts that it is necessary to read only one book. It is unbelievably stupid to imagine that this kind of illiteracy can be combated with bombs and bullets. And terribly scary that the U.S. and Britain are being led by men who do not, or cannot, read. Three hundred years ago, Jonathan Swift wrote a satire called The Battle of the Books; it would be great if Bush and Blair could be helped to read it. It has a great deal to say about the "collateral damage" that is incurred when violence is used in a battle over the printed word.  They might also discover that when it comes to struggling with fundamentalism, there are arsenals packed with weapons of mass education in all our towns and cities. They are called 'libraries' "

Mal was 64 years old when he made a figurative return to the Norfolk of his youth and wrote his semi-autobiographical 'Life: An Exploded Diagram' in 2011, with the proviso that : "My Gran, although churchy and prayerful, was nothing like as harsh, or bonkers, as Win. I altered my family’s personalities not out of love or deference, or revenge, but in order for the dynamics of the story to work. Newgate is a pretty accurate, if sour, portrayal of my old school. The bike rides, the strawberry fields, the fearsome mystique of sex and the non-availability of condoms are all ingredients of my youth. Sadly, however, there was never a real Frankie. I had to make her up."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ml3d1acrSDE&t=1m12s
He later said that in this coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of the Cold War and events leading up to the Cuban Missile Crisis : "My own feelings are expressed not by Clem but by Goz, in his outburst in the school bogs. And by Frankie when she says ‘I absolutely refuse to die a virgin. It would just be too awful.’ "
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8wQmSQoFRs&t=0m32s

It was only with 'The Murdstone Trilogy' in 2014, his dig at fantasy novels and at the world of celebrity writers which he both loved and was terrified by, that Mal was first published as an 'author for adults', although he said : “It’s definitely not my attempt to break out of the YA bracket, because if I were to say I’m breaking out of it, I’d have to recognise it, as a genre. I can’t really claim it doesn’t exist and simultaneously break out of it.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJjmbLJ-XTE&t=2m11s


Now, two years after Mal's death, he may be set to win a 'Carnegie Medal', after making the shortlist with his co-author Meg Rosoff who finished his novel 'Beck.' She said that : “He was such an astonishing writer. Any attention that he can still get, even after he’s dead – not that he would care now – it is really important, because I’m not sure his books were ever read enough,”
If  Mal wins the Carnegie, which celebrates outstanding writing for children and teenagers, it will be the second posthumous win in the Prize’s history,

Meg said at the time of his death :  "Nobody wrote like Mal. His humour was leavened with blackness, his gimlet eye with kindness, his substantial talent with modesty."

Mal said of books, when he was a boy reader up that tall tree,sixty years ago, in the garden of his house on a Norfolk Council Housing Estate :
"For me they are windows they are transport, they are hiding places. Places of safety."

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Who in the world visits 'Britain is No country for Old Men' ?


At a distance of 5,536 miles, a visitor from the Republic of Korea viewed :
Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to an old architect called James Gowan

At a distance of 1,529 miles, a visitor from Moscow in the Russian Federation viewed :
Britain is a country where a town called Lerwick and its Festival called Up-Helly-Aa in Scotland's Shetland Islands, bid "Farewell" to an old Jarl called Willie 'Feejur' Tait

At a distance of  5,710 miles, a visitor from Hanoi, Dac La in Vietnam viewed :
Page unknown 

At a distance of 1,819 miles, a visitor in La Corua in Spain viewed :
Britain is a country where young boys today will look back, when they are old men in the 2070's, and reflect on the poverty of their youth

At a distance of 319 miles from Dublin, in a visitor from Ireland viewed :
Britain is still a country for and says "Happy Birthday" to that old, upper class and English actor with a stiff upper lip, Edward Fox



At a distance of 3,588 miles, a visitor in Mascat in Oman
viewed : Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to the Grand Old Man of Myrmecology and the World of Ants, Cedric Collingwood


At a distance of 5,775 miles in Rio De Janeiro in Brazil a visitor viewed : Britain, a country where the "air is very foul", is no longer one for an old novelist called Ian McEwan

At a distance of 1,266 miles in Bucharest in Roumania a visitor viewed : Britain says "Happy Birthday" to two old actors called Ben Kingsley and Anthony Hopkins

At a distance of  2,205 miles in Israel a visitor viewed : Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to its Prince of Linguists, Adam Kilgarriff

At a distance of 937 miles in Rzeszw in Poland a visitor viewed  : Britain is a country where Scotland's Shetland Islands say "Farewell" to their erstwhile lighthouse keeper of Muckle Flugga and storyteller from Yell called Lawrence Tulloch

At a distance of 184 miles in Nanterre in France a visitor viewed : Is Britain still a country for an old Polish warrior from the Second World War called Captain Zbigniew Mieczkowski ?

At a distance of 5,829 miles in Tsuyama in Japan a visitor viewed : Britain is no country for 'Driftwood Dave' and his wooden shack in Embelle Wood

At a distance of 3,362 miles in Ottawa in Canada a visitor viewed : Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to its old and best blind artist, Sargy Mann


At a distance of 5,294 miles in Phoenix in the USA a visitor viewed :
Britain is still a country for an old, self-effacing Second World War hero called Lieutenant Roy Wooldridge

Monday, 13 March 2017

Britain, a country where the "air is very foul", is no longer one for an old novelist called Ian McEwan

That is no country for old men..
Caught in that sensual music all neglect 
Monuments of unageing intellect.    
W.B.Yeats 'Sailing to Byzantium'
                                                                ***********************
I last saw Ian McEwan when he was 19 going on 20 and I was 20 going on 21. We were both studying for a Arts degree in the School of English and American Studies at the University of Sussex in the 1960s and having a lunchtime drink in the University bar. Apart from the fact we were both bespectacled and sixties Britain was certainly a time and place for young men. we had nothing in common, him having been educated in a boarding grammar school and the son of an Army major and me in a big, South London comprehensive school, the son a a saw doctor who worked in a timber mill on Deptford Creek. We have more in common now, with him pushing 69 and me 70 : we both agree that Brexit Britain is no country for old men.

Ian, the author of the Man Booker Prize-winning 'Amsterdam' and best known for 'Atonement',  has been an outspoken critic of Britain leaving the European Union and has called the Brexit vote “a plebiscite of dubious purpose and unacknowledged status.”

While in Barcelona last week, promoting his latest project, 'Nutshell', he once again made his thoughts on Brexit clear, calling it “a real disaster” and comparing the state of affairs to Nazi Germany. Today, in the Guardian he clarified his position saying that : “I do not think for a moment that those who voted to leave the EU, or their representatives, resemble Nazis. Nor does our government even faintly resemble the Third Reich."

So what exactly did Ian say ? Well, according to the Spanish newspaper El Pais : “Sixteen million Britons wanted to stay in the EU and 17 million wanted to leave, but there exists a small and very energetic political group made up of opaque and impatient people who are driving the process and who speak as though half the country were the entire country” and : "It’s also serious because Great Britain works on the basis of a parliamentary democracy and not through plebiscites, which remind me of the Third Reich.”

According to the newspaper, he added that the politicians claiming to speak on behalf of the people tended to “react violently” to those who did not share their views and “Their militant wing, the tabloid press, has started to look into the lives of the judges who rule that Brexit could result in the loss of human rights to see whether they’re homosexual or something. It’s reminiscent of Robespierre and the Terror of the French Revolution. The air in my country is very foul.”

He was referring to the fact that last November, the High Court upset the Government’s Brexit plans by ruling that Members of Parliament should have a vote on the formal process for beginning Brexit with three senior judges concluding that it couldn't press ahead with triggering article 50 of the Lisbon treaty without first consulting MPs and peers in the Commons and Lords. This resulted in parts of the British press attacking the decision, with the Daily Mail branding the judges 'Enemies of the People' in a front-page headline and the Daily Telegraph headlining its report : 'The Judges versus the People.'


Back in July 2016, writing in the Guardian, Ian voiced his disbelief at the vote to leave the European Union when he said : “From our agriculture to our science and our universities, from our law to our international relations to our commerce and trade and politics, and who and what we are in the world – all is up for a curious, unequal renegotiation with our European neighbours. And what was the nation’s democratically tendered advice to our lawmakers? That we’re almost evenly split. One third wants to leave, fractionally less than a third wants to stay, and a third doesn’t know or doesn’t care. Seventeen million against 16 million. Each full of contempt for the other. And on this basis and unlike any other country in the world, we are about to redraft our constitution and much else besides.”

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Britain is a country which finally honours its late artist-photographer, once 'Laureate of Teenage London', Roger Mayne


Roger, who died at the age of 85 in 2014, is having his photos are being exhibited for the first time in nearly 20 years in The Photographers Gallery in London. 

In addition to his pioneering photographs of the 1950s and early 60s of community life in West London’s Southam Street, the Exhibition also features examples of his less well known work from outside the Capital, including early work in Leeds and between 1961-65, he was also commissioned to photograph the newly developed estate of Park Hill in Sheffield. At the Raleigh Cycles Factory in Nottingham in 1964, where he used the low lighting to produce a series of dignified portraits of the in his distinctive black and white.

Also restaged, for the first time since 1964, is Roger's pioneering installation, 'The British at Leisure', commissioned by architect Theo Crosby for the Milan Triennale it features three-hundred and ten colour images projected on five screens to a commissioned jazz score by Johnny Scott.


He is, however, best remembered for his black and white scenes of working class life in Southam Street in West London in the late 1950s where he often focused on teenagers and the vitality of children living the playful childhood he hadn't experienced in his own stern, 'academic' upbringing without comic books and doubtless, any joy.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYUwljFJWzc&t=0m27s

Roger was born 1929 in Cambridge, the son of a ex-Headmistress mother and father, the Headmaster of Cambridge and County High School for Boys who, frustrated by financial constraint, in his ambition for a legal career, pushed his children hard. After leaving the prestigious boys' public school, Rugby, Roger became a Chemistry undergraduate at Balliol College, Oxford with a hobby in photography and later said "I can’t really say how I first began to be interested in photography. I think photography probably found me."


He came under the influence of Hugo van
Wadenoyen who became his mentor and whose 'Wayside Snapshots' in 1947 marked a decisive British break with pictorialism in photography and was an early attempt to use the book format as a means of showing a photographer's personal pictures. Hugo helped Roger to show his work at 'Combined Society' Exhibitions, a progressive group of local photographic societies which, in 1945, had broken away from the moribund 'Royal Photographic Society.'

After graduating, Roger began to build a career as a professional photographer and in 1954, moved to West London, stayed with photographer and artist, Nigel Henderson who was working on the streets of Bethnal Green (right) and was partly financed in these years by royalties from his late father's series of school textbooks, including 'The Essentials of School Algebra'.

He made his public debut in 'Picture Post' Magazine at the age of 22 in 1951 with a photo essay in colour of the making of the abstract ballet film, 'Between Two Worlds', directed by Sam Kaner and also took the stills for the film.

In 1952, he acquired a copy of Cartier-Bresson's new book, 'The Decisive Moment' and saw its photographs as a series of exclamation marks and 'visual explosives' which informed his own street photography at a time when prevailing ideas were those of the Director of the V & A Museum, who told him in 1954 that 'photography is a purely mechanical process into which the artist does not enter.'

.
Working as a freelance, Roger documented the streets and activities of the East End of London and, in 1956, in an exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts established his photographic reputation for social realism and illustrated his style of street work when he said : I went to South London and I saw, in the distance, a bombed building with a lot of children playing in it, so I thought that might be an interesting subject. So I walked towards this building and when the children saw somebody with a camera they immediately stopped this fascinating thing, whatever they were doing which intrigued me, so they all came out and wanted their photograph. You used to get this cry, "please take my photo Mister".

He became interested in one street close to where he lived in North Kensington : " I remember my excitement when I turned a corner into Southam Street, a street I have returned to again and again… I think an artist must work intuitively, and let his attitudes be reflected by the kinds of things he likes or finds pictorial. Attitudes will be reflected because an artist is a kind of person who is deeply interested in people and the forces that work in our society."



Southam Street with its large decaying terraced houses and shared lavatories, was crammed with people living in crowded rooms who spent much time outside in the street. With his 'Zeiss Super Ikonta' camera around his neck, he befriended the residents who became accustomed to his presence and oblivious to his snapping and the documentation of their lives in 1,400 negatives over 27 occasions.

Roger would later say that his Southam Street Album of photographs became a noose which, "In a sense I put it round my own neck” and he didn't like to be labelled as a 'photojournalist' saying : "I’m not happy about this. I had to earn my living, so I do think of myself as earning my living on the fringes of photojournalism, but I do think of myself as a fine artist. My intention is to be a fine artist, but I think that it is the nature of the medium of photography that one has to start with what photography does, which is to take records of things. So I think you take a record and if, for various reasons, everything comes together, then the record will raise itself to a work of art."

At the age of 29 in 1958, he met playwright, theatre director and future wife, Ann Jellicoe, whilst photographing a production of her play, 'The Sport of My Mad Mother'.

The novelist Colin McInnes, the author of  'Absolute Beginners', based his 1959 book on the story of a teenage photographer on the verge of making it and said of Roger : "He is one of the few English photographers I know of who have disclosed to me a world of modern fact : a portrait of sub-life of which, without him, I would have been unaware."  Colin commissioned him to take the cover image of his book and on seeing it for the first time said : "We all gawped at it and slapped it on the cover there and then."


Roger continued to freelance, producing photographs of youth culture and architecture and featured in 'Vogue' magazine with 'The Teenage Thing' in 1959 and saw his 'Southam Street Project' inspire Ann's best known play, 'The Knack', first performed at the Royal Court in 1962 and later adapted into a film directed by Dick Lester starring Michael Crawford and Rita Tushingham and filmed in the Southam Street area which was transposed to 'Northam Street'.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3MG3HsVY5U&t=56m56s


He gained recognition and by 1964, the V & A had bought and exhibited his work, before he left London and between 1966 and 69 taught at the Bath Academy of Art, Corsham. He collaborated with Ann to produce, in 1972, 'The Shell Guide to Devon' and in 1975, moved to Lyme Regis and undertook landscape photography in Southwest England and Europe, much of it in colour, with Mediterranean work in Dubrovnik, Rhodes and Corfu and in 1980 diversified into etching, drawing, and painting.
 
The Southam Street community was swept way as part of a slum clearance programme and replaced in 1969 by Erno Goldfinger's brutalist experiment in high rise tower block living, Trellick Tower.

In 1986, at the age of 57, he helped the V & A stage a major retrospective of his work and revive interest in his 'Southam Street Series' which he re-edited, but he lamented that : "by doing that I drew all this attention and I just saddled myself since with Southam Street."

1989 saw the BBC 'Timewatch' team make a programme on Southam Street and the 1990s brought him a new audience with concert back drops, record sleeves and press adverts for singer Morrissey.

Throughout the 1990s Roger photographed in Paris, Iceland, Spain, Tuscany, the Canary Islands and Aswan in Upper Egypt at the age of 75 in 2004. From 2001 onwards he had his photos exhibited at Tate St.Ives, Tate Britain  and Tate Liverpool and in 2007 saw one of his photos of Southam Street girls chosen for Tate Britain's 'How We Are Photographing Britain'.

He gave Alan Johnson MP, former Southam Street kid and Labour Government Home Secretary, permission to use some of his photos in his childhood memoir and who said of him that : "He captured the squalor of those awful slums but ensured that the people who lived in them were shown in all their humanity, which was important given that the houses we lived in were declared unfit for human habitation in the 1930s."

Ann, his wife, said of him :
"His upbringing had left Roger shy, inarticulate, socially isolated. But through photography he was able to share in the teeming life of the streets without having to enter into it. He photographed children and mean streets because he found them beautiful but also perhaps because they didn't demand that he play a middle class social or professional role. Photography became the means, motive, point of Roger's life."