Kenneth Allsop was a writer, journalist and broadcaster who in the 1960s and early 70s became one of Britain's first television celebrities. Voted the 'fifth most handsome man in the world', he enjoyed the high life of fast cars, jazz and smart London parties, moving among the nation's glitterati from the arts, media and politics. But he was also an accomplished naturalist and a passionate conservationist who fought fiercely to hold back mounting threats to Britain's wildlife and landscapes. He played a key role in raising the public's concern for the environment long before the advent of the UK's now-powerful green movement.
Keeping the Barbarians at Bay focuses on the last few years of Allsop's short life, when he escaped London to live in a seventeenth-century watermill in the secret, crumpled landscape of West Dorset. Keeping the Barbarians at Bay describes how the threat of oil and gas exploration in this protected area of outstanding natural beauty forced him to become an environmental activist, and how his grassroots campaigning led him to the BBC's first environmentalist TV series Down to Earth, and to a radical 'green' column in The Sunday Times. Not surprisingly, he made powerful enemies in government and big business, at a time when there were few other environmental champions to lend him support.
Using his unpublished diaries and papers, Keeping the Barbarians at Bay reveals the inside story of Allsop's struggles on three fronts: with 'the barbarians'; with the constant physical pain from his amputated right leg; and with his despair at the huge environmental challenges facing the planet. In the end, they were battles he could not win, and in May 1973 he took his own life at the tragically early age of 53.
David Wilkinson is a political scientist, journalist, and lifelong conservationist. He has researched and lectured on European environmental policy and was a Visiting Professor at the College of Europe in Bruges. Most recently, he worked for the Government's wildlife and countryside agency, Natural England