Ruskin Walks in Ramsgate and beyond

Ruskin Walks coverWe are delighted to announce five Ruskin Walks in the early summer, with a commission from the UpDown Gallery in Ramsgate, Kent to undertake four walks in the surrounding area.  We will be returning to Leighton House, Holland Park Road in London since the InTransit Festival in 2012, offering a Ruskin Walk over the mid-year solstice weekend.  Booking details for each Ruskin Walk are available below.

Ramsgate has witnessed the opening and rise of the UpDown Gallery, whose Director, Kate Smith, has for a long time been an admirer of the work of Martin Fidler, (who also happens to be the creator of the Ruskin Walk).  UpDown image

The gallery is to host ‘Changing Horizons’ a major exhibition of Martin’s work from the 18 May to the 15 June, and has commissioned Martin and Ruskin Walk collaborator, Andrew Stuck from Rethinking Cities to devise and lead four Ruskin Walks on the 1st, 2nd, 8th and 9th June.

Ramsgate was home to August Pugin, architect and designer, from 1848 when he moved in to St Augustine’s Grange, a property he designed in the Victorian Gothic style, and which was rescued from dereliction by the Landmark Trust in 1997.  Last year marked the 200th anniversary of Pugin’s birth and there is strong local support for the architect and The Grange.  However, John Ruskin who visited Ramsgate, in promoting JWM Turner’s drawings of the harbour and sea front for the Harbours of Britain series, was unimpressed by Pugin and his architecture.  Sir Kenneth Clark is noted in saying that: “If Ruskin had never lived, Pugin would never have been forgotten.” 

The series of experimental and challenging walks will explore and record the local environment of buildings and open spaces of Ramsgate in a manner similar to John Ruskin, artist, critic and social reformer. People participating in the three-hour long walks will be encouraged to take a different view of their surroundings, inspiring fresh observations, which can be recorded as notes and sketches kept in a small hand assembled journal provided for the Ruskin Walk.

The Ramsgate walks will take place on Saturday mornings from 10.00am on the 1st & 8th of June and Sunday afternoons from 2.00pm on the 2nd & 9th June starting at the UpDown Gallery.  They finish with an invitations to accompany Martin on a brief tour of his exhibition.  The participatory walks are priced at £25 per person with limited spaces available.  Please call the UpDown Gallery on 01843 588181 for further details and to book.

Further details on the 2-hour Ruskin Walk from Leighton House, Holland Park Road, London at 3.30pm on Sunday 23 June will be posted shortly, to book please click here

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5 years since the inaugural Ruskin Walk in Camberwell

On Wednesday 11 July, Martin Fidler undertook a reprise of the Ruskin Walk that was commissioned by the Camberwell Festival of Arts in 2007.  Since the original ‘Drawing the Ruskin Walk’ took place, the Ruskin Walk has developed in ways that Martin scarcely imagined at the time.  The greatest impetus has been in the last 18 months, since Andrew Stuck of Rethinking Cities and curator of the Museum of Walking, commissioned a Ruskin Walk for an event held at the South London Gallery in March last year.

Andrew saw the potential of broadening the audience and appeal of the Ruskin Walk – in which participants, step out as if in the character of John Ruskin, Victorian polymath and long time resident of Camberwell to investigate and explore a neighbourhood.  Martin led a group of housing and public health professionals through the streets of Camberwell from Denmark Hill station to the South London Gallery, encouraging them to observe their surroundings as if they were John Ruskin.  It proved so popular, that Andrew and Martin have won commissions from the Geologists Association, MUF Architects, University College London’s Bartlett Planning School and the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea to undertake further Ruskin Walks.

Ruskin’s life in Camberwell and how his critical techniques have influenced our approach to artistic interpretation, continue to intrigue as was witnessed on the latest Ruskin Walk.

Participants expressed their enthusiasm for the topics discussed as well as the opportunities to practice their drawing and improve on their observational skills.

Great fun. Very relaxed. Nice people. Learned a lot.”

 “Wonderful walk. I would like to join again.


John Ruskin’s influence was much more than in his interpretation of architecture or understanding of how neighbourhood layout could influence housing and improve residents’ well-being.  He is well known as the champion of W. S. Turner and an acknowledged promoter of the works of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

So it is an exciting opportunity for Martin and Andrew to present a Ruskin Walk from Leighton House Museum in Holland park as part of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea’s acclaimed InTRANSIT art festival.

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. This summer it is exhibiting works from the Schaeffer Collection of Pre-Raphaelite art, a taster of course, for Tate Britain’s widely anticipated Pre-Raphaelite show opening this autumn.

All are welcome to join the Ruskin Walk from Leighton House Museum in Holland Park Road at 6.00pm on Thursday 26 July – on line booking is essential:

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Ruskin’s take on planning

Planners from the Bartlett School at University College London accompanied Martin Fidler, creator of the Ruskin Walk, on an investigation around the residential streets of East Dulwich, Herne Hill and Camberwell in June.

After the exertions of undertaking PhDs in Planning, the Ruskin Walk lived up to being a fun and informative walk with students commenting that their eyes had been opened to the ‘what lies beneath, and behind in the past’.  Clearly, although many had heard of John Ruskin, few had any idea of how his interests had influenced how they themselves ‘framed’ their planning practice.

Students at the Bartlett School are an international bunch.  They brought a diverse variety of ideas to the discussion, and learnt about the scale of London, and the speed at which these suburbs grew in the number of residents – in part, the reason for Ruskin leaving Camberwell in his early 50s.

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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:

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