Wealden Literary Festival (Sat 29/Sun 30 June, 2019)
As writer-in-residence, I ran workshops on childhood place – using words from Jay Griffiths’ classic book Kith: Riddle of the Childscape as starting point: ‘one’s square mile, the first landscape we know…Amor Loci’.
I also invited festival-goers to share their words, voices & stories between their time spent with a line up of fine nature/place writers including Raynor Winn, Adam Nicholson, Horatio Clare, Emma Mitchell, & Naoko Abe.
On Sunday 30 June, I joined Jessica J Lee and Nina Powles of Willowherb Review in a panel discussion on diversity in nature writing (Beyond the Green and Pleasant Land), before chairing the last talk of the weekend: Authors Neil Ansell (The Last Wilderness) and Dan Richards (Outpost) on wild places.
If one does not lie back and sum up and say to the moment, this very moment, stay you are so fair, what will be one’s gain, dying? No: stay, this moment. No one ever says that enough. Always hurry. I am now going in, to see Leonard, and say stay this moment…” Virginia Woolf
Sussex-based writer and artist Tanya Shadrick – Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and creator of the Wild Patience Scrolls – was in residence for a one-day celebration of diary-writing at Monks House, the home of Virginia Woolf.
During this drop-in afternoon event she from Woolf’s diaries and invited visitors to spend time writing in the grounds.
Ahead of the event, Tanya wrote for National Writing Day about her reasons and techniques for writing about place.
Field Notes from Warnham is a one-year collaboration with sculptor Will Nash at this mid-Sussex nature reserve, in an ACE-funded project for the Horsham District Year of Culture. My role is to gather notes on the flora and fauna through the changing seasons, work with visiting school groups, and collect also perspectives and stories from visitors to the Reserve; this will then inform sculptural works for the site and yield a display for the visitor centre.
“I’ve always loved the artist’s hut and never been in. Then today you appeared in the doorway! I felt your warmth and kindness. Just so many lovely words and pictures to enjoy.” Open Day visitor
During my residency at Bucks Mills Cabin, I moved between books and poems set by the sea, my own thoughts about growing up on this coast, and the stories I collected from visitors. These words were set around me like a bird’s bower, inviting those who spent time with me to write as well: Here is a pen, I said, and paper. Write me how it feels: Here, now. In this way, we shared a while in the peace, effort and concentration experienced by the Cabin’s former owners, Judith Ackland and Mary Stella Edwards.
The Cabin — like the tiny island on which the Moomin creator Tove Jansson and her partner lived and worked for decades — is a powerful symbol for me of female dedication to a simple life of creative practice and closeness to nature. I’ve had photos of the Cabin by my writing desk for years, so to be resident here myself was a heady feeling.
“So beautiful. There is such a grace in your writing.” Aurélie Baudrier, Head of Communications, Jan Michalski Foundation.
I was privileged to be an inaugural-year recipient of a residency at this leading European foundation for writing and literature, staying in one of 7 new architect-designed ‘treehouses’. The Foundation describes its mission as being “to foster literary creation and encourage the practice of reading through a range of initiatives and activities. These include mounting exhibitions and cultural events that have a connection with writing and literature, making a large multilingual library available to the public, awarding an annual prize in world literature, granting financial support, and…hosting a writer-in-residence program.” The residency was awarded so that I could devote my time to completing the Wild Patience Scrolls, while locating them in an international context.
“Elegant, humble.” Dr Martin Shaw, mythologist and story-teller
Writing a mile on scrolls of paper as long as the pool, I asked swimmers at Pells and beyond this question: When did you feel most wild and free? In your body? Your mind?