Common Ground invented the words Local Distinctiveness in 1983 and continues to campaign and collaborate in celebrating and promoting variegation in our surroundings.
We are currently writing a book about the rich range of things that make England such a complex place. We know from our projects, for example on Parish Maps, Apple Day and Community Orchards, that attachment to locality needs to be taken seriously. We have created ENGLAND IN PARTICULAR through which we hope to inform and gather details, stories, examples and to help communities share their particular knowledge.
Local implies neighbourhood or parish. Distinctiveness is about particularity, it is rehearsed in the buildings and land shapes, the brooks and birds, trees and cheeses, places of worship and pieces of literature. It is about continuing history and nature jostling with each other, layers and fragments – old and new. The ephemeral and invisible are important too: customs, dialects, celebrations, names, recipes, spoken history, myths, legends and symbols.
All these things are folded into identity and need reinvigoration by the new. Localities are always open to outside influences, new people, ideas, activities, and just as nature keeps experimenting, they must face the paradox of persistence and change. But change may enrich or it may homogenize and diminish. We all know too many high streets which look the same, housing estates which could be anywhere, fields which have lost both history and birdsong or festivals which have no authenticity. The essay LOSING YOUR PLACE expands on this.
Often it is the commonplace things, the locally abundant, that we take so for granted that they slip through our fingers. We believe it is important to demand the best of the new so that quality and authenticity adds richness to our surroundings making them convivial to us and to nature.
Read Losing Your Place
Find out about England in Particular
See COMMON GROUND'S Rules for Local Distinctiveness
and our Local Distinctiveness Publications and Products