As Britain entered lockdown in the spring of 2020, images and signs proliferated in its windows, symptoms of the human desire to communicate as face-to-face contact became impossible. When restrictions temporarily eased, writer James Attlee began ringing doorbells in his hometown of Oxford. On doorsteps and park benches, on council estates and among genteel terraces, he recorded the voices of those briefly emerging from isolation.
He won the trust of rainbow painters and anti-vaxxers, a Covid nurse, an LGBTQ+ artist, a VE Day celebrator and Black Lives Matter protesters, as well as frontline workers in a bakery and a supermarket. Their words, Attlee's pithy observations and 16 pages of his photographs make Under the Rainbow a unique record of an extraordinary year and a tribute to creativity and resilience.
“A unique book that is a travel guide of sorts, and a fascinating collection of reflections and revelations, with Attlee’s fine mind pulling it together, Under The Rainbow is a brilliant read.” —Mab Jones, Buzz Magazine
“Attlee’s form of attention shows us a sensitive way of caring and relating and recognizing the lives of others: by attending to messages, gestures, signals in the surrounding streets, by inviting neighbors’ stories and explanations, he has assembled a searching portrait of the time of Covid.” —Marina Warner
“Under the Rainbow refracts the pandemic into a prism of colours, revealing it not just as a public health crisis but as one that touches issues from racial injustice to the climate emergency. Beyond the statistics and political statements, Attlee helps us make sense of living through the shared moments of a global catastrophe.” —Roman Krznaric
“Full of warmth, wit and eloquence, and a rare, refreshing combination of modesty and conviction, Under the Rainbow is a supple investigation of familiar symbols. I loved the careful anthropological questioning of the complex world on our doorsteps.” —Alexandra Harris
“Attlee’s intrepid enquiring sympathetically explores the anxieties and hopes of summer 2020.” —Patrick Keiller
“Observant, enquiring, contemplative, James Attlee has carried out a deft investigation of a city in lockdown. I love the way he listens to people, thinks about what they've said, and lets it lead him to some relevant allusion or philosophical notion.” —Tim Pears
“Attlee captures an intense moment of national self-reckoning by letting those who speak to him from their doorsteps really speak. The result is a carefully curated form of polyphony, sometimes interjected with personal support, but more often with real sympathy, that carries him back to reflections upon poetry and art.” —Sally Bayley
Praise for Isolarion
"Residents of East Oxford can be proud to have this eccentric advocate and eloquent explorer in their midst.” —Geoff Dyer, The Guardian
"Attlee captures the essence of this city better than any tour bus ever could.” —Paul Kingsnorth, The Independent
"Attlee reminds me of the old scholars, chock full of intellectual curiosity and an almost alchemical sensibility.” —Ray Mattinson, Blackwell’s, Oxford