Revisiting Britain

Going back to places

Journalists don’t often get to go back to places.

But as the news cycle lurches from crisis to crisis and reporters are confined more than ever to their desks, this newsletter is an experiment in revisiting my imaginary Rolodex to find out what happened to the people I’ve interviewed – and to the country – since we last met.

Who will we meet?

Five years ago, a month after the referendum, I left my job as business editor at the Independent and set out to travel the UK. I was in search of communities who were experimenting with alternatives to out-of-town shopping centres, outsourcing essential services and scraping by through endless cuts at a moment when life as we knew it was about to change.

I found councils rethinking contracts, coastal towns reinventing redevelopment, indoor farms, off-grid energy projects and alternative currencies. But more than any of that, I met hundreds of kind and interesting people who welcomed me into their lives, took time out of their day and even hosted me in their homes.

I’m still on those travels. The events of the last five years have proved that, more than ever, we need to think about alternative ways of doing things if we are going to escape the traps of late capitalism. But in this enforced hiatus, I’ve decided to go back to some of these people to ask them what happened to them since we met. I’m publishing these interviews as transcripts, in the style of a hero of mine, Studs Terkel, to get as close as possible to the experience of being face-to-face with a stranger, listening to them talk about their lives (Studs would have done this with either a martini or a cigar in hand, if you want the full experience). I’m delighted to be working with a friend, the extremely talented Katie Pope, who will be drawing portraits each week.

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