A Fortunate Man Revisited - 50 years on
In 1967, A Fortunate Man, written by the art-critic John Berger with photographs by Swiss documentary photographer Jean Mohr, was published to international acclaim. It explored the relationship between a rural doctor and his patients in the Forest of Dean and would go on to become recommended reading for trainee GPs. It was an intense, probing analysis of the doctor – Dr John Sassal – but also provoked questions about the role of the GP more widely in society. The setting of the book – St Briavels – and the doctor and his patients were all anonymised in the interests of confidentiality and securing participation, although the pictures and the dramatic death of the GP years later made the location and participants apparent.
In 2015 the book featured at a Royal College of Art conference celebrating Berger’s diverse and prodigious career. As the panel of doctors discussed the book, one aspect was starkly absent: the people and landscape of the Forest of Dean. Last year saw the fiftieth anniversary of the still in print publication and the death of the author. In a weekend of events this June the University of Gloucestershire’s Reading the Forest project, in partnership with FODLHS, seeks to address precisely that: A Fortunate Man Revisited, 50 years On, will examine the book firmly from the perspective of the real community (St Briavels) at the centre of the book. Was it a fair depiction of the village, community and wider Forest of Dean, of the 1960s? What picture does it paint of the real-life St Briavels doctor, John Eskell, at the centre of the book? How accurate is Berger’s depiction and analysis?
The weekend will begin on 22nd June with the presentation of a 1972 docu-drama that featured performances from local people and filmed in Blakeney and Soudley, and then move to St Briavels for a weekend exhibition, tour, talks and discussions, as well as a screening of the 1967 BBC TV feature on the book filmed locally, and cine films from the late 1950s of village life made by Dr Eskell.
More details soon...