Slatehead: The Ascent of Britain’s Slate-climbing Scene by Peter Goulding (Print)
Bobby Drury left Liverpool after O-levels, knowing he had f***ed them up. Free now, he hitched to Snowdonia. His mum came crying on the phone, ‘You’ve failed them all.’ Bobby knew that. ‘No, Mum, I’ve led Vector.’ This was Thatcher’s lost generation. The slate quarries were walking distance; they’d have a smoke, a party in an abandoned hut, try and climb something. A small culture emerged of punks, nutters, artists and petty thieves, crawling up abandoned rock, then heading to the disco at the Dolbadarn. These were the Slateheads.
The people in these interleaving worlds – the punk dole dropout star- climbers; the Victorian quarrymen pioneers; the Welsh-speaking grandson of a ropeman, abseiling in to bolt sport climbs like Orangutang Overhang in the Noughties, Lee and his mates slogging west today – all are polished like nuggets in this 360° view over patience, pride, respect, thrill, movement, the competing claims of home and agency, and above all, a belief in second chances.
About the author: Peter Goulding is a climber from the north of England. He has spent most of his working life in pubs, kitchens and on building sites. He currently works at Center Parcs as an instructor and is an alumnus of UEA.
"An in-depth history of the climbs and characters of British slate quarries that is also a meditation on the nature of obsession, on the persistence of wildness in unexpected parts of a post-industrial world, and on the rock itself, at times sharp, lustrous and strangely beautiful." Katie Ives, 2020 Chair of Judges, Boardman Tasker Mountain Literature Prize
"Exuberance spills out of Goulding’s prose; proximity to the ‘deep old fear of death’ gives it vitality. When he’s on rock, it’s a heady read... Slatehead is a warm and spirited account of a little-reported community. Its merry band of rogues, misfits and dropouts is sympathetically cast, and the central experience of being alone, high on rock, is exhilaratingly wrought. In many ways, climbing is a daft, dangerous waste of time—and Goulding is wryly aware of its ample absurdities. Yet his writing also burns with the sublime fever of it." Alex Diggins - 3:AM Magazine
‘Witty, absorbing, wide- ranging and razor-sharp account of a love affair with rock’ Helen Mort
‘Good and clear and honest. Like the climbers it presents, the story is careful and risk-taking, ambitious and humble. These are the things of great writing.’ Cynan Jones
‘Peter Goulding gives a personal account of falling in love with the north Wales slate quarries, immersing himself in the climbs and the history... As well as the climbing scene, Peter has done a great job of looking into the life and hazards of the quarrymen themselves, their past times and some of the histories of the conflicts between the communities and the clueless aristocratic quarry owners who cared little for the health of employees... An intriguing read.’ James (Caff) McHaffie
'Incredibly gripping and emotional... a cast of wonderful characters... thrilling and nerve-wracking... I longed for these heroes to achieve their aims... Feels like a group rock and roll biography.' Cathryn Summerhayes, Curtis Brown