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Dry stone Walling. Rural Artisan Enterprise in the Urban Economy

McElwee, Gerard ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6905-4443 and Gittins, Peter (2024) Dry stone Walling. Rural Artisan Enterprise in the Urban Economy. Journal of Rural Studies, 105 (103179).

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Usually, dry stone walls are a feature of rural locations but this paper presents a case story of how two experienced dry stone Wallers were commissioned to build a dry stone wall in an urban location. Through narrative story telling using photographs, this work charts the progress of the construction of the Wall from the commissioning process in December 2021 from visiting stone quarries to search for appropriate stone in January 2022, to the building of the wall itself in May-June 2022.

The paper demonstrates how engaging in simple artisanal tasks, such as building a dry stone wall, is a source of fascination to the observer and also a process of discovery. Methodologically, it uses a Dramaturgical lens (Goffman, 1959) to capture the experience of both the construction of the wall itself and the lenses which the casual observer uses to understand the process of walling.
The paper explores the significance of what are perceived to be ‘rural’ ‘creative enterprise’ and artisanship but transported to an urban environment. It expands an earlier work of a case study of two dry stone wallers, based in North Yorkshire, a region of the UK (McElwee, 2022).
By so doing, it demonstrates how creative enterprise skills in the rural economy can be transported into the urban environment. By this simple process the paradox is that more actors are able to enjoy and appreciate a rural skill, than they would in a more ‘traditional’ environment. One further consequence of this is that urban-based actors are able to appreciate at first hand, the beauty of a well-constructed dry stone wall.
Importantly it points to the significance of the dry stone wall for the continued sustainability of rural regions. In the UK, the dry stone wall is perceived to be a ‘Public good’. Indeed, the UK Domestic Agricultural Policy (DAP) is centred around the idea of ‘public money for public goods’, which incentivises farmers for providing services that the public can benefit from i.e., countryside access, sustainable farming practices and increasing biodiversity (Defra, 2021).

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrurstud.2023.103179
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
School/Department: York Business School
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/9083

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