Ballard under the Westway

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Date(s) - 20/01/2019
2:30 pm - 4:15 pm

Latimer Road Underground Station


Ten years since the death of author of J G Ballard and we are setting out to discover what lies beneath the Westway, inspiration for his novel “Concrete Island” in which like Robinson Crusoe, the anti-hero of the novel finds himself stranded. Careering off the motorway, through a crash barrier, down an embankment, he miraculously escapes almost unscathed form the wreckage of his Jaguar.  His efforts to flag down passing motorists however, cause him considerable distress and injury.  We feel for his struggle to make his presence known to others, but like him before them, the passing traffic is unaware of what lies beneath the Westway.

In J G Ballard’s own words ”The day-dream of being marooned on a desert island still has enormous appeal… Robinson Crusoe was one of the first books we read as children, and the fantasy endures.” But what of a solitary forgotten existence – what fears, of hunger, of isolation, of painful slow death might impinge on that dream?

The Pacific atoll may not be available, but their are other islands nearer to home, some of them only a few steps from the pavements we tread everyday.” 

Daniel Defoe‘s “Robinson Crusoe“, upon which Ballard’s ‘Concrete Island‘ is loosely based, was published in 1719 – so we will be paying homage to the original story as well as to Ballard’s near future one.

Participants at Ballard under the Westway 20 January 2019

Launching Between the Lines: part discovery of engaging writing, part discovery of place, and part discovery of the writers. Call it a ‘Book Club on foot’ if you like, in which we invite you to read a book and join us to walk “Between the Lines”.

Please try to read the novel before you come – it is available in libraries and in paperback – just a little over 120 pages.


£15 (+ Eventbrite fee) / £20 on the day

We would to acknowledge help from Dave Walker at RBKC Local archives and Dave Hearle for accompanying us on the recce.

References if you wish to delve deeper

What participants told us about “Ballard under the Westway:
What I like best about the event | What I found surprising | How much I enjoyed it (out of 5) and why?

  • Going somewhere totally new and unexpected | It was excellent | 5 stars
  • Knowledge of guide about the area & guest who knew Ballard | The unfinished motorway | 4 stars 
  • Readings, & interesting photos and presentation | Mix of usage and social history of the Westway | 5 stars | Very relevant to my interests and good chance to see areas I wouldn’t usually visit