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A Flat Place
27 April 2023 All day
Raw and radical, strange and beguiling – a love letter to Britain’s breathtaking flatlands, from Orford Ness to Orkney, and a reckoning with the painful, hidden histories they contain
Noreen Masud has always loved flatlands. Her earliest memory is of a wide, flat field glimpsed from the back seat of her father’s car in Lahore. As an adult in Britain she has discovered many more flat landscapes to love: Orford Ness, the Cambridgeshire Fens, Morecambe Bay, Orkney. These bare, haunted expanses remind her of the flat place inside herself: the place created by trauma.
Noreen suffers from complex post-traumatic stress disorder: the product of a profoundly disrupted and unstable childhood. It flattens her emotions, blanks out parts of her memory, and colours her world with anxiety. Undertaking a pilgrimage around Britain’s flatlands, seeking solace and belonging, she weaves her impressions of the natural world with poetry, folklore and history, and with recollections of her own early life.
Noreen’s British-Pakistani heritage makes her a partial outsider in these landscapes: both coloniser and colonised, inheritor and dispossessed. Here violence lies beneath the fantasy of pastoral innocence, and histories of harm are interwoven with nature’s power to heal. Here, as in her own family history, are many stories that resist the telling. She pursues these paradoxes fearlessly across the flat, haunted spaces she loves, offering a startlingly strange, vivid and intimate account of the land beneath her feet.