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LINDA'S COUNTRYSIDE CAMPAIGN
On St. George's Day, 23rd April, David Puttnam, new President of the Council for the Protection of Rural England, launched a vital photographic exhibition at London's Royal Festival Hall. Devised to mark the CPRE's Diamond Jubilee, the show features specially commissioned projects by photographers including Lord Snowdon, Fay Godwin, David Bailey, Patrick Lichfield, Terence Donovan and, of course, Linda McCartney. This unique survey is intended to draw public attention to the massive pressures on many cherished and familiar English landscapes before they are changed or vanish for ever.
The landscapes chosen, all as yet untouched, represent the vulnerability of the countryside of modern England. Intensive farming techniques, oil exploration, nuclear power-related developments, insensitive industrial development and road building, the effects of the Channel Tunnel on the Kent countryside, housing pressure on the Green Belts and many more issues are covered in the exhibition.
Linda's task was to show what would be lost if Fairlight Down, near Hastings in Sussex, became an onshore oilfield—an application to drill is currently being considered. Woman's Hour, on BBC Radio Four, broadcast Linda's views on Friday 13th June in a feature introduced by Wings' "Deliver Your Children".
"It's one of England's beauty spots: I'm quite shocked that they were even considering it. The views are incredible... there's a footpath right across the field. They'll totally change the soil, they'll put twenty to thirty rigs in there and where I used to come to look at beautiful oak trees, they'll cut them all down... It'll be one of the horror spots of England, rather than one of the beauty spots."
But some would say oil is a national resource and you need to sacrifice a bit of green space to get it.
"Well, we've already sacrificed so much green space and so much of the sea. It's a very small country... and it's mad to destroy so much of it for resources. We should be more self-contained and protect our land. We don't know how the earth got here... all we know is how to destroy it."
What are you trying to say in the pictures?
"I'm trying to say that nature is beautiful. We look at an oak tree and it took one seed to make that oak tree; it takes one saw to cut it down. But it takes 400 years for something like that to grow and if we just cut them down to make room for more of these... big rigs and everything, it's pointless. I'm trying to say to people, 'This is beauty: you can easily destroy it, but you'll never get it back again'."
David Puttnam has said that this year's photographic record could be a warning, in time to stop people, or it could be a requiem. Which do you think it will be?
"I think it'll stop people. I think people are starting to realise they only have this little planet, there's no other planet like this one, and to realise how much destruction has been done... If it changes it [the landscape], it'll never be the same. It's not like you can put concrete down and then say 'Oh, that was a mistake. Why don't we put earth there again?' Once you do it, it's gone, so people have to fight, they have to let the government know they don't want Channel Tunnels, they don't want oil, they don't want too much industry... and pollution."
Linda's commitment will be known still further when a BBC TV documentary on her and Donald McCullin's photos for the CPRE Countryside Calendar is shown this autumn. CPRE works closely with groups such as the World Wildlife Fund and Friends of the Earth and fully deserves your support. Details of membership are available from The Membership Secretary, CPRE, 4 Hobart Place, London SWIW OHY.
A small selection of the exhibition's photographs is to tour many of England's county shows this summer in a specially converted caravan. The exhibition will be complete by September and will be on display at the Royal Festival Hall in London throughout that month.