22 September 2010

An evening with maps

I like it when things come together.

I've loved maps for as long as I can remember, something I inherited from my Dad. I collect them carefully on my travels, admire them in museums and refer to them on those rare occasions that I get lost. So an exhibition of maps was always going to be an attraction.

I had planned to go to the current exhibition at the British Library, home not that long ago to an exhibition of London maps, but work has dragged me away from Kings Cross and I had not been able to get there.

Secondly, I also love to walk; oddly this is usually more fun without the hindrance of a map to guide you. My natural habitat is the city where I stroll down passageways that most people avoid with my ever-present camera for company and my witness to discoveries made.

The third thread to this tale is a little path locally that the Ramblers had done some campaigning work to keep open and they contacted me because they found a photo of this on one of my web sites and wanted my permission to use it.

And so it was that I found myself at the British Library at a campaign launch organised by the Ramblers.

The evening started with a guided tour of the exhibition Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art led by the curator himself. This was superb.

I had seen some of the related BBC programmes and somehow they managed to make maps seem boring. Unbelievable, but true.

This talk took us through the uses of maps at symbols of power, works of art and, er, maps in a way that both entertained and informed (always my two critical success factors for a talk!).

The fifty minutes sped past but I was grateful for the spare ten minutes at the end to quickly go round again to revist my favourite maps and even to take some illicit photos, as least I assume that photography was not allowed as everybody else who was talking photos looked as furtive and guilty as I'm sure that I did.

The second half of the evening was the press launch of the Ramblers' campaign for a definitive map of Central London.

A lot of the talk was a bit technical with reference to highways acts and the various types of highway that are recognised but the main point is simple; most of the country benefits from definitive maps that enshrine rights of way but Central London has been excused this responsibility and this needs to change as paths in cities matter too.

To which I can only add, "Hear. Hear.", and also my signature to their petition.

The presentations were followed by some networking with wine and peanuts (the staple diet of the regular meeting goer) which I enjoyed more than usual as I was talking about something I have a passion for with people who had detailed knowledge on the subject.

There was another coming together then too as in one of the conversations we soon discovered that we lived just a couple of hundred metres apart.

And so it was that I left the gathering with a spring in my step, some new ideas in my head and a rekindled passion in my heart.

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