'ROAD' by Nigel Dickinson
Tania and Clive blow a triumphant lament over the cutting, during a mass trespass Road Protest action at Twyford Down, outside Winchester, against the M3 road extension, Summer 1993. This photograph became the key image of a self-originated, longterm documentary project, shot in colour transparency film, in the early nineties. I was living on and off with Road Protesters, starting with Twyford Down, covering the Dongas daily lives of resistance, protest and actions on the Cutting, and the later siege’s along London’s MII route. I remember walking with Tania and Clive, when they decided to stop on the edge of the Cutting. I shot several frames and was able to nicely frame them and the police standing below. I was also aware of a plane flying into the middle of the sky. It was shot on my first Canon EOS1 with a 20-35mm lens, which I’d won in a competition, the year before.
The British Road Protesters movement began in the early 1990s when the Donga tribe squatted Twyford Down to save a site of scientific interest, an ‘SSI’, from the Ministry of Transport's road building programme. The Dongas was the name ascribed to the ancient walkways, the paths trodden in the middle ages by people walking down to Winchester. A small tribe of protesters were joined by people of all walks of life who came to Twyford Down to defend it. A long hard battle over a few years ended in the ‘cutting', a new motorway built through this ancient monument and destroying it.
The Road Protest movement in Britain continued for many years and more battles were fought in London against the MII both at Wanstead then in Leytonstone, and subsequently at Newbury, and elsewhere. The protesters were very inventive in their use of non violent peaceful direct action. They barricaded themselves into squats, made tree houses, tunnels and had huge demonstrations against bailiffs, police and private security, who tried to force their way through the physical defences of this alternative popular environmental movement. Many of the roads were built eventually and many sites of great beauty lost, but the government had to stand down from its road building policy and eventually the programme was halted. The protests cost the government billions. Out of that movement grew many environmental NGOs who have to this day kept fighting for ecological and sustainable environmental solutions rather than following the cult of the car, petrol and roadbuilding.
The final work ‘ROAD’ has been exhibited and published widely, across the UK National Press, French Liberation and GEO magazines, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Krakow Photo Month and foreign exhibitions about 1990’s British photography. The image of Tania and Clive blowing their horns, was made into postcards, which at a certain point in time, seemed to be found adorning mantlepieces and toilet walls up and down the country.
• This and half a dozen other images from the 1990's Road Protest and 2020's HS2 Resistance feature in TATE Liverpool’s 2022 Art exhibition ‘Radical Landscapes’, exploring alternative uses and representation of the British landscape in modern and contemporary art, currently in Liverpool, moving later this year to The Mead Gallery at Warwick University.
• A wider selection of Road Protest and HS2 Resistance photographs will also be presented at this year’s Visa Pour l’Image photojournalism festival in Perpignan, France, and are part of the traveling 'Resistance Exhibition' shown at Glastonbury 2022 and other festivals across the UK.
Nigel Dickinson is a British documentary photographer and photojournalist. His work focuses on the environment, human condition, resistance and culture. ‘Demonstrate’ on public protest, was exhibited at Camerawork Gallery, London 1983. “Hanging On By Your Fingernails”, about the Miners strike, published by Spokesman Press 1987. Documenting indigenous peoples and deforestation in South East Asia won UNEP bronze award at the Rio Earth Summit 1992.
‘Road’ about the UK Road Protest movement was first exhibited in 1994. In the early 1990s Dickinson began his longterm project about Roma beyond borders, he worked across the Balkans wars and the aftermath of the Guatemalan civil war. In 1997 Dickinson was awarded a World Press for BSE and Mad Cows, since then he has worked on the Meat industry across the world. Sharia Islamic law in Kano Nigeria, shot 2003, was published worldwide, and shown at Visa Pour l’Image.
Dickinson was Runner up for the Eugene Smith Award in 2000, for the Roma’s exodus from Kosovo. ‘Sara. Le pelerinage des gitans’ was published by Actes Sud and exhibited at the Arles Rencontres 2003. The Roma work was published in National Geographic and exhibited at the Venice Biennale. Smokey Mountain Rubbish Dump won Critical Mass in 2011 and was shown at Houston Fotofest in 2016.
Dickinson is published by Stern, Mare, La Vanguardia, Figaro, D-Repubblica, Geo, New York Times, The Sunday Times, We Demain and South East Asia Globe. He has revisited, photographed and filmed inside the Borneo rainforest and its indigenous peoples regularly since the 1980s. More recent reportage work includes China Big Brother, Brexit Britain, and the HS2 resistance. His most recent work is about the Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia. Dickinson lives and works between the UK, Paris, and rest of the world.
See more work by Nigel Dickinson