I have a vocation, and it’s to do with places; with communicating, enthusing, analyzing – in short, extollagising – about the nature of ‘old places’, and what makes them tick. I get especially excited about the sacredness of place, and the human place-making that results from it: a po-faced way of saying I love religious architecture in particular. English medieval churches are my academic specialism.
In any case, this a calling without a career structure. Writing lies at the heart of it, but like many writers I do other things which help earn a living and which arise from the expertise I’ve gathered on the way. But these, for me, are not add-ons: lecturing, teaching and tour-leading, copywriting and editing for heritage organizations, academic research: all are essential elements in what is a seamless and overlapping range of concerns. You can find out more about each, or contact me direct, via this website.
You might, indeed, come across my books, such as Cathedral: the great English cathedrals and the world that made them, published by Constable in 2007; The Secret Language of Sacred Spaces, published in late 2013; the Shire book of Medieval Church Architecture, which came out in July 2014; I am currently writing a major work on the British landscape, slated for publication in 2017. You might also have come across my BBCTV documentary, How to Build a Cathedral, which was widely praised.
Among other things, I hold a Teaching Fellowship in the History of Art department at the University of Bristol, lead tours for Martin Randall Travel and others; and am a Lay Canon (keeper of the fabric) at Bristol cathedral. I am also a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and an accredited NADFAS lecturer. My piece of journalism about North Korea (east Asia plays a big part in my life: my wife is the Chinese author Liu Hong) for the London Review of Books some years ago was shortlisted for the David Watt Memorial Prize.