Seeing the Wood Through the Trees

Reconciliation ecologist Pete Yeo celebrates Blake’s testimony to nature as ‘imagination itself’ with an exploration of how our ‘plant blindness’ is perhaps giving way to a ‘probiotic turn’ and the vegetal realm’s role in our need to more fully engage our individual and collective imaginations with the challenges of our times.


The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity, and by these I shall not regulate my proportions; and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself. As a man is, so he sees.

– William Blake, from his communications with the Reverend John Trusler, 1799

Having found Finding Blake during the pandemic my sensitised perception kissed this joyful quote as it flew, a passing mention by writer Robert Macfarlane during an online literary event about old-growth trees. It reminded me of my own experiences over the years with people who have only seen green things standing in their way, or wilder expressions of vegetation as a mess, as human control lost. It also brings to mind the sentiments of some researchers, like plant neurobiologist Stefano Mancuso, who have highlighted our general ‘plant blindness’, plants and vegetation too often being taken for granted as the backdrop to human affairs.

Plant blindness - seeing the tree

From plant blindness towards vegetal agency

One notable green obstruction was not ‘just a tree’ but a local hawthorn, a plant known to the imagination of any experienced rewilder as ‘mother of oak’, the protective nurse for spontaneous woodland regeneration. Just as the latter process is gaining popularity ahead of conventional tree planting, so we hear of a weed garden winning at a premier garden show, and not simply for its benefit to endangered pollinators. And then there’s the rise of creative pavement chalking for wildflowers (formerly ‘weeds’). All are examples of what Jamie Lorimer calls the ‘probiotic turn’, a nascent move away from antibiotic (against life) human agency, toward a mutualistic modus operandi.

In From What Is to What If, the Transition movement’s leading advocate Rob Hopkins asks what if we could more fully engage our individual and collective imagination with the challenges of this era? It’s an enticing question, made more interesting by recent insights into the nature of consciousness that are leading us to see this as an emergent phenomenon pervading the scalar cosmos. Nature as imagination itself; indeed, alive with it. Our human brains aren’t the prime generators of such music after all it seems; as physicist Nassim Haramein puts it, you wouldn’t go looking inside the radio for the presenter. Unlike indigenous cultures, the self-imposed boundaries of modern society have largely dulled our senses to external (and even internal) signals. For the sake of the music, now’s a good moment to give up the self-aggrandisement and return to harmony with the rest of the band.

In recent decades, playful research into plant sentience has reimagined these beings, so vital to our presence on stage, to the extent that there are now very active global conversations on plant ethics and rights. “Where will it end!” some might cry. Where everything is felt to be sacred, I would suggest, including any harvest thereof. Yet, in this example, I wonder if we have truly seen beyond our boundary thinking. Could the “optical delusion of consciousness”, as observed by Albert Einstein, wherein we see the world individualised, be limiting the imagination of this progressive research? Are we seeing the full proportions of vegetal sentience, and by extension, that of Nature as a whole?

Studies on plant cognition have already established plants as ‘supra-organismic ensembles’, to borrow from philosopher Michael Marder. Every plant is a form of swarm intelligence arising from its modular parts and devolved functioning. This agency features more senses than humans (15, compared to our five, or six), problem-solving, memory, kin recognition, and communication and sharing within and across species ‘boundaries’ (explore the work of Mancuso, Monica Gagliano and Suzanne Simard for instance). Such self-organisation, creativity and altruism are impressive enough, yet it’s their outward-facing behaviour in particular that hints at something more. Beyond being drops in the land-bound vegetal ocean, might we also see that ocean through every plant-formed drop?

Complexity and creative adventure

We can see that the evolution of life continually strives beyond the so-called individual, self-organisation (or greater coherence) emerging at ever-larger scales along with new properties that can’t always be explained via the sum of constituent parts. Think of the rise of nucleated cells or multicellular organisms, the swarming or flocking of animals, and certain aspects of human society. Such complexity appears to be born of efficiency and pragmatism, though possibly also creative adventure. In this light, can vegetation, viewed as a whole, be imagined as sub-organismic tissue within the living body of Gaia, with its own emergent properties aligned with the dynamic functioning of its host and other sub-parts?

Consider how European beech forests equalise resources, supporting disadvantaged trees via below-ground mycorrhizae, whilst facilitating closed canopies above. Or, that they synchronise their masting (fruiting) every few years to overwhelm herbivory and safeguard young saplings, we know not how (The Hidden Life of Trees). Wonder at the infamous albino redwoods in California that some researchers now believe to be sacrificial elements of their forest communities, rather than parasitic freeloaders, acting as toxicity sinks. On the same continent, marvel at Douglas firs, in terminal decline along the warming southern fringes of their range, shunting their remaining resources, again via shared mycorrhizae, into the young ponderosa pine moving north (Mycorrhizal Planet). All for the sake of a resilient green mantle we might imagine.

Further to the mention of beech in particular, there are the observations of ecologist Jean-François Ponge. He has described a forest, seen three-dimensionally, as an emergent, collective structure akin to the bubble-like form of the human being. Above and below ground canopies form the ‘skin’, trunks and branches the ‘skeleton’. My own studies, inspired by the work of herbalists Stephen Harrod Buhner and Timothy Lee Scott, have explored the idea that certain plants, often called weeds or invasives, might actually represent this green mantle’s immune response. Intriguingly, plant colonisation of grossly disturbed land is rather similar to the process of skin healing following wounding (substitute water loss for blood), even down to the healing substances deployed by respective ‘immune cells’.

Then there’s biotic pump theory, which seeks to show that continental interior forests, where they remain, create low-pressure systems above themselves that act to draw in moisture-laden air from the oceans (as winds blow from high to low). Indigenous wisdom already knew this as ‘forests attract rain’. Similarly, some now believe that trees allow a degree of herbivory in order to benefit from insect excrement, a useful fertiliser. We know that the web of life crawled out of the ocean, but did the ocean also crawl onto the land? Given the remarkable – if controversial – insights from a number of contemporary scientists, relating to the properties and powers of water molecules, this might not be such an outlandish idea. As Gaia theorists would put it, life creates the conditions for life.

A new old story

This unified perspective I’ve attempted to sketch out for the vegetal realm is reflected across the sciences, not least in physics (the holofractographic cosmos) and biology (the holobiont). It doesn’t end there of course; our boundary delusions are being challenged across society. The ‘Story of Separation’, as writer Charles Eisenstein puts it, our modern cultural mythos, is as a veil now wearing thin. A more compassionate, relational ‘Story of Interbeing’ is re-emerging; fertile ground, perhaps, for a unified field of phytology (botany), somewhere out beyond all notions of right and wrong. A field from which we might see the wood through the trees, and onward to a more regenerative existence within the ‘Ocean of Being’.

Until such an arising, I sense Blake and our Muse – nature as imagination itself – at my shoulder.


Notes

All photographs by Pete Yeo. In his first Finding Blake post, An Evergreen and Pleasant Land?, Pete takes inspiration from William Blake’s poem that later became the hymn Jerusalem to contemplate the impacts of our changing climate on Britain’s evergreen plantlife. And in Auguries of Innocence: the Connected and Consequential Cosmos, he shares his appreciation of Blake’s words and their popularity for how they speak directly to the heart of the matter.

For more from Pete, see his website, Future Flora, and his similarly-named Facebook page for weekly musings. Lately, he’s felt a call to write more expansively on the need for a more holistic and reverential relationship with the plant realm (and hence all Life). At times the muse has felt rather Blakean.

You can read about and view William Blake’s letters to the Reverend John Trusler here at the British Museum, in which Blake explains that “I feel that a man may be happy in this world, and I know that this world is a world of imagination and vision. I see every thing I paint in this world, but everybody does not see alike.”

A forthcoming issue of The Blake Society’s Vala journal will focus on Blake and Nature (Issue 2, released in November 2021, features original art from our previous Finding Blake contributor, Tamsin Rosewell), and the Society has this callout for contributions to a seminar on the topic: Nature Is Imagination Itself.

Pete mentions a number of sources on plant consciousness, including plant neurobiologist Stefano Mancuso. You can watch a TEDx talk Are plants conscious? where he talks about our ‘plant blindness’. In Why ‘plant blindness’ matters — and what you can do about it for the BBC Future site (29/4/10), Christine Ro looks at how humans succumbed to plant blindness and advocates for everyday interactions with plants.

And in The ‘messy’ alternative to tree-planting for the BBC Future Planet feature (25/5/21), Catherine Early explores how trees are excellent at taking carbon out of the atmosphere and trapping it in their trunks, roots and leaves, but asks what if planting them wasn’t the solution? A brief BBC News item (25/7/21), Weed garden wins RHS gold at Tatton Park flower show, explains that the team behind the garden wanted to show that native plants are not just beautiful but essential for wildlife, while in ‘Not just weeds’: how rebel botanists are using graffiti to name forgotten flora in the Guardian (1/5/20), Alex Morss describes how Pavement chalking to draw attention to wild flowers and plants in urban areas has gone viral across Europe.

Jamie Lorimer’s book The Probiotic Planet: Using Life to Manage Life is published by University of Minesota Press (2020), and you can download the introduction an hear an interview with the author at the link. And Rob Hopkins’s book From What Is to What If’: Unleashing the power of imagination to create the future we want is available from the author’s website.

In Does Consciousness Pervade the Universe? for Scientific American (20/1/20), philosopher Philip Goff explores panpsychism and the possibility that consciousness is not something special that the brain does but is instead a quality inherent to all matter?

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate by Peter Wohlleben (published by Harper Collins, 2017) makes the case that the forest is a social network. And in Rare Albino Redwoods May Hold Clues to Ecosystem Health, at Atlas Obscura (9/7/21), Marina Wang describes how these ‘ghosts of the forest’, once thought to be a burden to neighbouring trees, may actually benefit them. And Michael Phillips’s book, Mycorrhizal Planet: How Symbiotic Fungi Work with Roots to Support Plant Health and Build Soil Fertility (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2017) explores the science of symbiotic fungi and sets the stage for practical applications across the landscape. 

The Tygers of Wrath – a Lesson in Dissent

Tamsin Rosewell at Kenilworth BooksTamsin Rosewell is a bookseller and illustrator and sees Blake’s influence in both these spheres today, through the primacy of the imagination and the coming together of word and image. And she values Blake’s dissent and challenge to authority and orthodoxy, and his example of prophecy as revealing the world as it truly is.


I like to think of myself as Blakean. I’m a bookseller, illustrator, broadcaster and, through those things, an activist. Blake is very present in a modern bookshop; I’ve seen several generations of writers refer to, or be inspired by, Blake. There are direct references to Blake’s life and work in novels by great writers such as Tracy Chevalier, Julian Sedgwick, Malorie Blackman, SF Said, Thomas Harris, Marcus Sedgwick, Philip Pullman – and there are many others. I’ve heard writers talk in different ways about how they feel that Blake’s existence has somehow given them leave to create entire mythological worlds, permission to accept that contrary to what we are taught in the classroom, it is stories that hold their shape over time and continue to grasp a higher truth and sense of purpose, while ‘facts’, ‘accepted history’ and ‘the truth’ are shadowy and insubstantial. As a bookseller I am also very conscious of the primacy of the imagination – that is, in effect, what I trade in: the power of other people’s imagined worlds.

I’m also an illustrator – and I see Blake as one of the founding creators of the modern way of illustration. At a time when beautiful, illustrated books for adults are one of the biggest growth areas in the book market (after a period when they seemed to be designed to look as bland as possible to ‘compete’ with the concept of an ebook), I recognise that Blake’s books are some of the first in which we really cannot separate word and image. Today’s illustration isn’t about drawing scenes from stories; it is about adding to them, giving the written word another layer of interest and imagination. Many illustrators today will add things into a story through the images, things never mentioned in the words and often things only the child being read to will notice, because they’re the one looking at the pictures; or details that will only reveal themselves if the reader takes time to read the images as well as the words.

The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction

As an artist I refer to Blake constantly: for the power of expression in his figures, for his use of image and word combined, for his joy in being unorthodox, for the encouragement to challenge accepted teaching and authority. There’s also something about the confidence with which Blake expresses anger in which I find reassurance. There is a lot of pressure today to stay away from the arguments, be positive and smiling and peacefully mindful all the time. This is not my natural state and I find that being angry, allowing yourself to become that furious ball of dissenting energy can be a powerful and positive thing. It is anger that led to the abolitionist movement, and to women’s suffrage, to the campaign against apartheid – those things didn’t come about by people staying out of arguments. The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

I believe that as a creative spirit, and someone with a loud and clear voice in my field, I have a responsibility to use my art and my choice of books to challenge authority, to be unorthodox, and to add fire to the many stale traditions that my own industry holds so dear, the way that Blake added something bigger and bolder to the dry and dusty Anglicanism of his own time, and wore the bonnet rouge when it was dangerous to do so. I’m a deeply committed pacifist, but I do feel that I have a duty to take up the arms of intellect and imagination, and to fight when I see cruelty and injustice – bring me my bow of burning gold.

Hope and dissent

Recently I gave a lecture to a group of creative writing Masters students; one of the questions I was asked was “Do you think that hope is important in children’s fiction?” The answer is obviously ‘yes’, no book that was utterly without hope would sell well, and no adult walks into a bookshop and says: “I’d like a book for my child, but I’d like it to be really bleak and without any sense of hope, please”.

However, the question troubled me and I kept thinking about it for several weeks because I felt it was the wrong question. “Where do we find hope in children’s fiction?” is a much more pertinent question. It isn’t cheery, saccharine hope that children necessarily look for, it is the recognition of their dark and burning sense of injustice. Novelist, Diana Wynne Jones wrote this very well – she captured in her books that desperate childhood anger of not being listened to by authority, or of adults not seeing the full picture, when they – the children – can see the way things really are.

Children always have a very profound sense of justice; I’m 48 and I still remember the unfairness of school and the dismissive behaviour of adults. The children are the Prophets. The word ‘Prophecy’ has come in our use to mean something like ‘foretelling’, we use it to mean that x or y will happen in the future. Its truer, and earlier, Biblical meaning is more complex than that – it is also about revelations, interpretations and inspirations from the divine – perhaps more like ‘forth-telling’. In the Bible, the words of the Prophets that do involve a prediction of the future, usually also contain a message about the outcome being conditional on human conduct. Prophecy is about revealing the world as it truly is, often to those who have steered their world along the wrong path. It is the children who are often the ones who speak of the world as it really is, and the adults who veil it in layers of often unnecessary complexity and hide the bits about which they are uncomfortable. We spend a lot of time as adults telling children to control their anger and to recognise it as a negative thing that can harm other people. But what if anger and hope could be seen as connected? Can we not teach instead to remember the anger you felt at injustice? There is hope if we use that energy to dissent.

Permission granted

When I look at Blake’s work, both his printing and his painting, there is much I don’t understand. I’d love to know exactly how he worked that gold leaf into the paint of The Spiritual Form of Pitt Guiding Behemoth, a great painting in a small room at the top of Tate Britain. And I’d love to know exactly how he layered his inks, at what consistency, and in what order, in his star wheel printing press. If I knew how he created those images the temptation would be to replicate. But the fact that I can’t know his process means that I have the energy and the frustration to keep searching. I find that acceptance of not understanding very liberating too. When I was making a radio series about Blake I worried, as I’m not a Blake scholar in any formal way, that I didn’t know enough to be allowed to make such a radio series. The most helpful advice I was given was by a true Blake scholar who said “Anyone who claims to understand Blake almost by definition doesn’t”. To try to ‘understand’ Blake is possibly to miss the point. To me the point is the mystery, the consent for the imagination to be what it is, irrational and huge beyond understanding.

A recreation of William Blake’s star-wheel printing press, made by BLAM Furniture Makers fas part of the recreation of Blake’s Lambeth studio for the Apprentice and Master exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford (2014-15). Image: BLAM Furniture Makers

Blake’s encouragement to be unorthodox is hugely important to me both as a bookseller and as an illustrator. Publishing is a copycat industry – the success of one book spawns a hundred similar books, all created to try and grab a portion of that first book’s success. And yet often that one book that became so copied was itself something unconventional in its first moment, something that publishers couldn’t have quite anticipated catching fire. You can’t bottle and market something if you can’t anticipate what it is in the first place. And in 15 years as a bookseller, I’ve never seen any of the copycat books gain quite the same interest and success as the maverick managed before it was copied. Which leaves booksellers wondering why publishers bother with the copycat dance when it has never produced anything more than temporary, superficial interest. To produce the unconventional in our industry you need to have a measure of exasperation at publishing’s outdated traditions and etiquettes; and a level of anger at the way it treats authors and is dominated by a cliquey and privileged class of person.

One interesting moment came during the first lockdown with the publication of a book called The Unwinding – or rather with its companion title, The Silent Unwinding. The Unwinding is a collection of stories and previously unpublished illustrations by one of our greatest illustrators, Greenaway-Gold Medal-winning artist, Jackie Morris. With her (delightfully unorthodox and impishly maverick) publisher, Unbound, it was decided to publish the same book, but to remove not all the illustrations, which would be the conventional thing to do, but to remove instead the words. What is left is a sort of blank book, peppered with extraordinary and inexplicable illustrations: a woman wrapped in silk and fur dreaming of giant sky-swimming fish; a child curled up in a wilderness landscape, reading a book to a pack of protective wolves; a dragon bearing a palatial, royal tent occupied by an antlered woman and three polar bears. No explanation. It is a small and beautiful object, not unlike The Songs of Innocence and of Experience in size and format. Small enough to fit into a bag or pocket. It isn’t a great heavy art book, and nor is it a flimsy handbag notebook. It is what it is.

Jackie Morris’ idea for the book was to allow it to be a journal, a sketchbook, a dream diary – basically whatever its owner wanted of it. But for it to be that its owner would also need to feel comfortable drawing or writing on top of the art of one of our country’s great illustrators. That itself is an interesting challenge and raises questions about what printed, published art can be for. Is it just to revere, or can we accept that it is also there to urge others on, to be defaced by someone else’s imagination?

Jackie dropped me a note and asked me to add some of my own pictures alongside hers, and share them on social media, to indicate to people that they had permission to add to her work. I did. But I wouldn’t have done if she hadn’t specifically asked me to! It was a surprisingly big leap to pour my own painting on top of hers, so that our art combined and it is hard to tell which fragments she painted and what I added. I chose to illustrate moments in Shakespeare’s The Tempest for no other reason than I was thinking about it at that moment, and it seemed to fit with the strange images already in the book. I made a conscious decision to refer to Blake in those images, there are figures in positions that I’ve lifted straight from Blake’s pages and put into this odd world that Jackie and I created between us. My copy of The Silent Unwinding literally drips with ink.

Permission granted - dissent. Showing The Silent Unwinding by Jackie Morris.
Tamsin’s copy of The Silent Unwinding, crinkled and dripping with ink
Tamsin Rosewell and Jackie Morris in collaboration © 2021
‘Hail many-coloured messenger’ – Iris, one of Prospero’s spirits
Tamsin Rosewell and Jackie Morris in collaboration © 2021
‘Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises’
Tamsin Rosewell and Jackie Morris in collaboration © 2021
Ariel helps raise the storm’
Tamsin Rosewell and Jackie Morris in collaboration © 2021
Ariel trapped in the tree by the witch Sycorax ‘Thou hast howled away twelve winters’
Tamsin Rosewell and Jackie Morris in collaboration © 2021
‘This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine’ Prospero and the enslaved Caliban
Tamsin Rosewell and Jackie Morris in collaboration © 2021
‘Wast done well?’ Ariel seeks release from Prospero.
Tamsin Rosewell and Jackie Morris in collaboration © 2021
End papers: ‘On the bat’s back I do fly..’ Ariel flies off in search of summer.
Tamsin Rosewell and Jackie Morris in collaboration © 2021

Others followed. We saw people use The Silent Unwinding to write notes for future novels, for private poetry, as a diary during the worst times of fear and isolation during the pandemic, and as an art pad to express themselves. A strange little book, but a powerful one. And a lesson in dissent.

Blake’s biggest influence on my world is probably his permission. Permission to dissent? Permission to be unorthodox? Permission to challenge authority? Permission to defend others from injustice? Permission to subvert tradition?

Permission granted.


Notes

Tamsin is a bookseller at 55-year-old independent bookshop, Kenilworth Books, in Warwickshire. She has been a judge of reading panels for children’s reading charity BookTrust, and an advisor on the Arts Council-funded Pathways into Illustration, which seeks to bring people from a more diverse range of backgrounds into mainstream publishing. She judges the Stratford Salariya Book Prize and lectures regularly to publishing and creative writing students.

Look out for more work from Tamsin Rosewell in The Blake Society‘s publication, VALA later this year.

Tamsin’s three-part radio series The Poet and the Prophet, about William Blake, and her three-part series Apocalypse – The Idea of The End, both made for Resonance FM, can be found on her podcast page and listened to on most devices, free, here: Tamsin Rosewell | Mixcloud

More of Tamsin Rosewell’s art work can be seen on her Instagram Page, Hobs Lantern: @hobs_lantern.

You can find out more about The Unwinding and The Silent Unwinding by Jackie Morris and Unbound Publishing at The Unwinding and The Silent Unwinding.

You can read an account of William Blake’s innovative design and printing process in “Printing in the infernal method”: William Blake’s method of “Illuminated Printing” by Michael Phillips, published in the Interfaces journal.

The photograph of the recreation of Blake’s star wheel printing press is taken from the case study, A Press, by the furniture makers BLAM. The Apprentice and Master exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford (2014-15), featuring Blake’s Lambeth studio, was curated by Michael Phillips.

In The Science of Life as Art and Dissent for Lady Science (2/7/21), a magazine for the history and popular culture of science, Christopher Martiniano discusses William Blake in the context of the authoritarianism of the government of William Pitt and the growing dominance of Enlightenment science. “To counter Pitt, English poet William Blake (1757-1827) challenged the Enlightenment thinking embedded in Pitt’s political philosophy and oppressive legislation. As a political and religious radical, Blake infamously undoes the Enlightenment’s mechanism of binary thinking, claiming that “[w]ithout contraries is no progression.” Blake believed in the necessity for opposites, not domination of one over the other. … Offering an alternative to the Enlightenment thought that animated Pitt’s authoritarianism, Blake associates vital, generative power with biology and imagination…” 

Our Film ‘Finding Blake’ is Launched

Finding Blake’s formal announcement of the project’s film: Finding Blake: meeting William Blake in the 21st Centuryor – memorialising the vegetal ephemeral.


“Forgive what you do not approve, & love me for this energetic exertion of my talent”
— William Blake, Jerusalem, The Emanation of the Giant Albion

When director James Murray-White heard that a new ledger stone for the final resting place of artist-poet William Blake was going to be made in his neighbourhood, in the renowned Kindersley Workshop in Cambridge, it reawakened his desire to explore Blake’s work and legacy. He set off on a three-year journey to find the contemporary relevance of this 18th and 19th century creative and spiritual force.

‘Finding Blake’ is the resulting feature-length document of the journey. James interviewed poets, priests, psychoanalysts and a rapper to get at the heart of Blake’s relevance today. Interwoven through the film is the creation of the stone itself — a stunning work of craft — from the stone being mined in Portland, Dorset, to its unveiling ceremony in the ‘Dissenters Graveyard’ in Bunhill Fields in London on the 191st anniversary of Blake’s death. We see the fine detail of the process: from choosing the stone, to its sizing and cutting out and bevelling, to the letter drawing out and then cutting, to gilding, and its final setting.

film Finding Blake - showing James Murray-White with Nigel Kinning filming at Bunhills Field
James Murray-White & Nigel Kinning – filming at Bunhill Fields

The film includes some of Blake’s key poems, and animated images, to take the audience into the mind of the artist, and to stimulate the deep imagination so lacking in our age.

“The green and pleasant land that Blake spoke about lives inside human beings: it’s the conversation between a possible template of happiness inside us, and an expression of that in the outer world”
David Whyte, poet & philosopher, in the film.

film Finding Blake - showing James Murray-White filming Lida Kindersley at work on the Blake ledger stone
James Murray-White captures Lida Kindersley at work on the Blake ledger stone

Released in the wake of the recent Blake exhibition at Tate London, this brand new documentary seeks to continue the process of opening up this ‘poet – artist – prophet’ to a wider audience, and show his very real relevance at the heart of contemporary culture in Britain and the world in the midst of massive shifts in consciousness and active rebellion on our streets. As we today urgently seek to find answers to the climate emergency and the rank social injustice that divides communities, William Blake pointed towards finding a spiritual unity internally and externally, and strove to find his own system before the ‘mind-forged manacles’ of the industrial capitalist system enslaved him.

Completed just in time for submission to Sheffield DocFest, Finding Blake has a ‘crew and crowdfunders’ preview screening in mid-March, and screening dates are being planned in Cambridge, Bristol, London, Stroud, Newcastle, Cornwall, Cumbria and Scotland, as well as a pay-per-view online option (with additional footage and scenes). All details will be available shortly here on the project website — where, of course, we have many articles exploring all aspects of Blake’s life, career, and legacy, written by a wide range of scholars and creatives.

I give you the end of a golden string;
Only wind it into a ball:
It will lead you in at Heaven’s gate,
Built in Jerusalem’s wall.

— William Blake, Jerusalem: ‘To the Christians’ 


Notes

You can follow the development of the film Finding Blake through our earlier posts, and at our Finding Blake films at a glance section, including James Murray-White’s personal reflections on the film, Editing Blake — and Revealing our Film Trailer