Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


Our Kind of Town - Autumn Public Lecture

21 November 2018, 6:00 pm–8:00 pm


Bob Gilbert on Greenery and Greed: the Loss of Natural London

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Phil Cohen


IAS Forum
Ground floor, South Wing, UCL
United Kingdom

The greenery of London, its parks and gardens, its woods and wild places and its wonderful collection of street trees, is one of the city's most valuable and distinctive attributes. But it did not happen by chance. Nearly every open space has, at some time in its history, been campaigned for, argued over or fought for, sometime literally, whilst many of its street trees were the result of a radical, and sometimes controversial, civic movement. Bob Gilbert will detail some of the forces that went into creating a 'green London', as well as those that are now threatening to undo it. As well as the increasing commercialisation and privatisation of our open spaces and the outsourcing of park and tree care, he explores the more insidious influences that have contributed to a massive decline in urban biodiversity. Illustrated by stories along the way, such as the relationship between sparrows and poverty and why the plane tree was a symbol of the people's London, Bob's talk will also seek to identify signs of a hopeful counter-culture; of guerilla gardening, community orchards, Tree Musketeers -and the idea of a truly integrated city shared by a multiplicity of species.

Bob’s varied career has included stand-up comedian, community worker, Head of a residential field studies centre and Director of Sustainability at a London local authority. He has also travelled widely including walking glaciers in Kashmir and a solo journey by mule down the Dinder River in the Sudan. He has been a long-standing campaigner for inner city conservation, for the protection and improvement of urban open spaces and also served as chair of ‘The Garden Classroom’, a charity that promotes environmental education in London.

His publications include ‘The Kings Cross Cut; A City Canal and its Community’, ‘On Spectacle and Species’ (in Mark Perryman’s ‘London 2012; How Was It for Us’) and ‘The Green London Way’, republished in 2012 in a completely revised edition. His new book 'Ghost Trees', exploring the relationship between history and natural history in a London parish, was published last month. He has also written extensively for newspapers and magazines and his column on urban wildlife has now been running continuously in a north London paper for over 20 years.

Bob lives in the East End of London with his family, a retired greyhound and several chickens.

Organised by LivingMaps Network in partnership with the Institute of Advanced Studies University College London.

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