Monk’s House, National Trust (Wed 26 June, 2019)
‘Stay this moment. No one ever says that enough. Always hurry. Now I am going in, to see Leonard, and say stay this moment…’ (Diaries of Virginia Woolf, 1932)
For National Writing Day, I will be in the gardens of Virginia Woolf’s Monk’s House, reading from her diaries, sharing learnings from my own practice of writing pen on paper, and inviting visitors to write letters or diary entries of their own.
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?