A Ruskin Summer

As a finale to the Chelsea Garden Show Fringe Festival how about venturing to the Ruskin Theatre Garden in Croydon, to join East Dulwich artist Martin Fidler and Andrew Stuck on a Ruskin Walk at 3.00pm on Sunday 10 June? The Ruskin Theatre Garden is to be found on a development site right beside East Croydon station and it is being opened for the first time to the public. A rich rudial landscape has taken seed over the last 20 years, with 86 opportunistic species nested across the 3 acre site. Come to the first viewing and have a closer look!


Martin and Andrew will be facilitating the Ruskin Walk, in which participants get to explore the development site, investigating its habitats using the critical techniques devised by John Ruskin, famous as much for his botanical drawings, as well as his architectural critiques, and views on social housing.

Ruskin was a Victorian polymath, with interests in botany, natural history, art, architecture, and social reform. Perhaps more famously known as William Turner’s promoter, he was a distinguished artist in his own right, and played a pivotal role in bringing the pre-Raphaelites to fame and fortune.

Martin created a Ruskin Walk for the Camberwell Arts Festival in 2007, and since March last year has been working with Andrew Stuck devising a number of different Ruskin Walks. Their collaboration led to funding from the Curry Fund of the Geologists Association to develop four Ruskin Geology Walks, and they have also been commissioned by University College London’s Bartlett School of Planning.

If you cannot make the Ruskin Walk this Sunday, join Martin and Andrew on a Ruskin Walk in Camberwell starting at 6.15pm on Wednesday 11 July from Denmark Hill station – on line booking is essential:


There will also be a Ruskin Walk from Leighton House Museum in Holland Park at 6.00pm on Thursday 26 July as part of the InTRANSIT Art Festival – on line booking is essential:


Leighton House is one of the most remarkable buildings of the 19th century. The house was the former home and studio of the leading Victorian artist, Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-1896) and it was extended and embellished over a period of 30 years to create a private palace of art. Leighton house became a focal point for the pre-Raphaelites and John Ruskin was one of its most public admirers.

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Ruskin in Dulwich

It is a tribute to the continuing influence of John Ruskin that a bunch of apparently sane people will voluntarily spend a cold, damp December afternoon walking around London looking at cobbles and tracing the fossils in Portland Roach stone, in homage to his work.

Ruskin Walks, led by artist and originator Martin Fidler, with his collaborator Andrew Stuck, encourage you to look at the city around you through Ruskin’s eyes, noticing the richness of stones and craftsmanship in the urban fabric which are often being lost beneath the machine-made modern city. The most recent one took place in Camberwell, the area where Ruskin lived for over 50 years.

Landscape has always been one of the biggest touchstones for Martin. His interest started early, inspired by his upbringing in Letchworth – a place he describes as being ‘a garden and a city’ – where his grandfather was estate manager. His sensibilities were further influenced by the time he spent in Finland, after winning a scholarship from the Slade School of Art to do an MA in Experimental Painting there. The forests, Finnish design and above all the northern light were a strong influence on his work, prompting him to move from sculpture into painting. A career as a practitioner and teacher in schools and art schools in Finland, London and the Netherlands followed.

Invited by Camberwell Arts Festival to create an event about the art critic and polymath Ruskin, Martin was initially daunted, until he remembered ‘Doing the Lambeth walk’ and realized he could combine art, the history of Ruskin’s life in London and walking. He devised a circular route from Ruskin Park to Denmark Hill – the last place Ruskin lived – devising things for the participants to do, including doing some telescoping at the Bessemer House Observatory. The walk finished at St Giles’s Church, where the East Window was heavily influenced by Ruskin’s description of the stained glass at Chartres to his friend, the designer Edmund Oldfield.


Part of Martin’s practice included collaborating on artist’s books with Iain Hamilton-Finlay – like Ruskin, a multi-talented artist who is probably most famous for the creation of his garden, Little Sparta. Participants on a Ruskin Walk receive their own hand-made journal, which they can customize to create a unique record of what they have seen and experienced on the walk. Above all, though, they will come away, as I did, with a new awareness of the value and beauty of the materials and craftsmanship that surround us, and of how we need to cherish these manifestations of the local and the human hand in a world increasingly at the mercy of the machine.

A version of this post was originally published on Dulwich on View.

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Ruskin Walks in December

You are invited to step out in the character of John Ruskin, author of The Stones of Venice, on the last in the current series of walks led by Martin Fidler and Andrew Stuck, which investigate the historic neighbourhoods of London. Discover what’s under your feet and embedded in the buildings around you.  During the walk you will learn about techniques that Ruskin used to interrogate his surroundings and be encouraged to exchange ideas and share discoveries.

 The walks have been made possible through the support of the Geologists Associations’ Curry Fund. Each walk will last between 90 minutes and 2 hours, and participants will receive their own unique hand-assembled visual journal in which to record observations.


There is a participation fee of £12 o join the walk – on-line booking is essential as places are limited and filling up fast! Just follow the link below.

We look forward to seeing you on a Ruskin Walk.

Camberwell Kerbs: 2.00pm Saturday 10 December from Denmark Hill station: http://ruskingeologywalk4.eventbrite.com/

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