Islands: In Conversation with John Furlong – a talk about a book

Dec 05, 2023, 04:44 PM

Islands: Danny Dorling in Conversation with John Furlong – a talk about a book, Department of Education, 15 Norham Gardens, University of Oxford, December 4th 2023.

John Furlong, former Director of the University of Oxford Department of Education, discusses his recent memoir ‘Islands: In Search of Brave New Worlds’ with Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder Professor of Human Geography.

It’s 1969. John and his friend Mike are living and working in Manhattan, making money for their big trip. That summer, New York becomes the epicentre of the brave new world that is ‘Alternative America’ – drugs, meditation, the anti-war movement, gay liberation, civil rights, feminism. Although exciting, John eventually becomes disillusioned. He wants to experience somewhere more ‘real’.

In the Caribbean, he and Mike discover the beauty and simplicity of island life before the advent of mass tourism. But they also have to confront the reality of a collapsing British Empire which lays bare the legacy of 400 years of colonialism and slavery – the poverty and corruption that was always there but that the Brits refused to see. Then on the tiny island of Carriacou, they meet Father Pat, a charismatic Marxist priest who asks John to join him in his struggle to create a more just society. But who was Father Pat and what did John learn from him? Only now, 50 years on, does John finally discover the priest’s identity and his role in Grenada’s socialist revolution of 1979 – that country’s ill-fated bid to build its own brave new world.