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RD - Roger Deakin Archive

Reference code
Level of description
Roger Deakin Archive
Quantity & Format
82 boxes Mixed
Personal name
Deakin, Roger
Authors, English -- 20th century
Deakin, Roger
Administrative/Biographical history
Roger Deakin (1943-2006), nature writer, environmentalist and film-maker.

Deakin attended Haberdashers’ Aske’s School in Hampstead, then Peterhouse, Cambridge, (1961-64) where he took an English BA under the supervision of Kingsley Amis. He then became an advertising copywriter, working for halfa-dozen of the major London agencies, from J. Walter Thompson to Leo Burnett, before becoming creative director of Interlink Advertising for three years.

He married Jenny Hind in 1973 (dissolved 1982), their son Rufus was born in 1974.

In 1974 he moved to Suffolk, having rebuilt (himself) a ruined 16th Century timber-framed farmhouse, and began teaching English and Drama at Diss Grammar School, Norfolk (1974-78). He also began farming a 12-acre smallholding, chaired the newly-founded East Anglian Arts Trust and co-edited and contributed to the Waveney Clarion community newspaper.

During this period he was involved in the creation and promotion of the Barsham Fairs, and, subsequently, the Albion Fairs – open air community arts events on a medium to large scale. As a contributing editor of the Waveney Clarion (the longest running and largest-circulating of the community newspapers of the 1970s) he began promoting through its pages regular village hall events – tours of the Waveney Valley by travelling theatre companies like Footsbarn Theatre and Paddy Fletcher’s Incubus and the Bar Dramatic Society, music by the Hank Wangford Band, The Ivory Brothers, Michael Storey and James Lascelles, Steve Ashley, Dave Swarbrick, Dave Pegg, The Tannahill Weavers, Dougie Maclean, Donald Swann and others, and ceilidhs up and down the Waveney Valley.

He left Diss Grammar School in 1978 to join the staff of Friends of the Earth (1978-82) planning campaigns, editing and co-writing publications, and managing press relations and media strategy. The first major campaign he was closely involved in planning from the beginning was the campaign to save whales. In 1980 he successfully campaigned to save Cowpasture Lane, part of an ancient Suffolk droving road, from destruction by agribusiness. The campaign, a key issue relating to the future of hedgerows in the debate on the Wildlife & Countryside Bill, and its success is documented as a chapter in Des Wilson’s “Citizen Action”, and in Common Ground’s “Holding Your Ground”, as well as “Hansard”.

From 1982-1985 RD was a musical advisor to the Aldeburgh Foundation on folk music and jazz, and produced a series of concerts and broadcasts at Snape Maltings by Carole King, the Chieftains, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Loudon Wainwright, Planxty, the Roche Sisters and others, as well as originating and commissioning “After Smith’s Hotel”, a major Arts Council jazz commission, with Mike Westbrook, first performed at Snape Maltings by the Mike Westbrook Orchestra, broadcast by Radio 3 and recorded in part as the LP/CD “On Duke’s Birthday”, on the German Hat Art label.

During this period (1983), RD also became a founder-director, with Angela King and Sue Clifford, of Common Ground, the arts/environmental charity whose ideas and initiatives he helped develop, together with Richard Mabey, Robert Hutchison and Robin Grove-White. Working with the designer and illustrator David Holmes, and with a range of artists and writers that included Heathcote Williams, Andy Goldsworthy, Posy Simmonds, Mel Calman, Glen Baxter, Peter Till, Germaine Greer, Ronald Blythe, Colin Ward, and David Nash, he helped create a distinctive “house style” for Common Ground.

His work as a writer/director/producer of film and television took on a special interest in arts, rural and environmental subjects.

He was a regular contributor to the Financial Times, The Independent, Guardian and BBC Wildlife, and wrote and lectured on environmental education for the Worldwide Fund for Nature and the Nuffield Foundation. From 2001 he contributed to the writers’ courses at Schumacher College near Dartington.

In 1999 RD’s acclaimed book 'Waterlog: a swimmer’s journey through Britain', was published by Chatto & Windus. This was followed by 'Wildwood: a journey through trees'. The individual chapters of 'Wildwood' were completed shortly before RD died in 2006. The book was then organised and lightly edited into its published form by Robert MacFarlane, Octavia Reeve, Simon Prosser, Alison Hastie and Terence Blacker. It was published in 2007 by Hamish Hamilton (an imprint of Penguin).

Notebooks which recorded RD’s daily thoughts, feelings and observations around his home at Walnut Tree Farm, provided the source material for 'Notes from Walnut Tree Farm' (Hamish Hamilton, 2008), edited by Alison Hastie & Terence Blacker.
Archival history
In October 2008 Jon Cook (Dean of Faculty of Arts and Humanities) was approached by Robert MacFarlane (RD’s Literary Executor) to discuss the possibility of donating RD’s literary papers to the UEA. The collection was gifted to the University by RD’s son, Rufus Deakin. The collection was transferred in August 2009 to the UEA, it had until this time been stored in a container at Walnut Tree Farm, and prior to this, in the top floor of the barn at Walnut Tree Farm.

Along with the papers there arrived a substantial collection of film and video material. These were appraised by the East Anglian Film Archive (EAFA) who expressed a keen interest. The collection included films commissioned by Anglia Television; East Anglian interests include “North Sea Follies - The End of the Pier Show at Cromer”, “Stable Lads” (Newmarket racing), “Cheryl and the Chocolate Factory” (Rowntree-Mackintosh-Nestlé production in Norwich), “Long Distance Romancer – The Songs of Mickey Jupp” (Southend music scene), “Cowboys Stay on Longer – the Country Legend of Hank Wangford”, etc.

With EAFA’s specialist knowledge in film and it being owned and operated by UEA, EAFA was the obvious home for RD’s film-making archive and film collection. This part of the collection was transferred to EAFA in December 2009.

The 45 notebooks [RD/NOTE] were collected separately from the home of Terence Blacker near Dickleburgh. These had been used as source material for Notes from Walnut Tree Farm, edited by Alison Hastie and Terence Blacker (2008).
Scope and content
The Archive holds draft, proof and manuscript copies of 'Waterlog: A Swimmer’s Journey Through Britain' (1999); correspondence relating to the book as well as to the journey on which it was based; and papers on other swimming and water related topics.

'Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees' was published posthumously (2007). Deakin’s wood and tree research took him most notably to Poland, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Australia. The archive includes the proposal for this book (originally entitled “Touching Wood”), chapter breakdowns, and research papers. There are no page proofs or publication correspondence.

Included is a series of 45 notebooks in which Deakin recorded his daily thoughts, feelings and observations around his home Walnut Tree Farm, near Mellis, Suffolk. This became the source material for 'Notes from Walnut Tree Farm' (2008), edited by Alison Hastie and Terence Blacker.

The Archive contains working papers, notes and correspondence relating to RD’s private and working life. This includes his early careers of advertising copywriting, teaching and environmental campaigning. Included are drafts and manuscripts for his books; scripts for journal and newspaper articles; and radio programme recordings, including the BBC Radio 4 documentary “The House” (Walnut Tree Farm).
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