'Agree With Everything - Deny Nothing - Embellish All

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Right Way To Walk

To the Red City, on the business of education. In the course of a coffee-break just off Castle St, I found myself talking to a volunteer National Park Warden who leads guided walks for tourists. The very same walking groups, it turned out, who famously had their funding removed last year because they 'only attracted middle-aged middle-class white people'. I'd thought at first that this story was a slow-motion train-wreck, a collision of tabloid values with the pernicious Blairite agenda of performance targets. My chance aquaintance confirmed that the guided walks money had indeed been cut - and local firm Hawkshead Clothing had stepped in to fund them.
So, I asked him, what sort of people do you get on these walks? Oh, they're white & middle-aged & middle-class, he confirmed. So, I went on, what can you do to make them more inclusive?
His response was genuinely astonishing. Asians, he assured me, didn't want to come to the Lake District. He'd met some in Leicester - he'd sat down and had supper with them - and they preferred to visit Dubai, after all it was only 3 hours away. (This seemed odd - when I worked for A Very Big Airline, I'm reasonably sure that our most modern jets took at least twice that time to get there). So what about minority communities in Oldham or Burnley, I asked, couldn't we attract them to the Lakes? No point, he assured me - most people who visit the Lakes are day-trippers and aren't interested in walking. I wondered how this accounted for the thousands of Lancastrians who followed the lead of Alfred Wainwright and came to the hills. By the time he assured me that Hawkshead had done the right thing because it meant that women - who might feel vulnerable walking alone - were able to enjoy the Lakes, the words 'Passive Agression' were virtually pulsating across his forehead.
Even by local standards this was jaw-droppingly crass. One of the very few disappointing aspects of returning here has been the surprising level of casually expressed racism. And not with the redneck element of my fellow-countrymen: I've encountered it among the degree-toting professional classes, some of whom seem to be still at the 'Enoch Was Right' stage of evolution.
Suddenly, I could see DEFRA's point of view. And I was wondering whether Hawkshead Clothing haven't taken leave of their senses.


Blogger Irene Adler said...

In this month's 'Countryman Magazine' there is an article about someone who is trying to promote farming as a career for black people in this country.

26/7/05 10:46 pm  
Blogger Nick said...

Irene - I've been trying to find online (without success) the recent report that showed that rural areas actually need to make positive efforts to attract minorities in order to expand local economies. It's this that makes Hawkshead's behaviour difficult to understand . . .

28/7/05 10:41 am  

Post a Comment

<< Home