June Review

June was a busy and rewarding month for me. The Wandsworth Heritage Festival, postponed from last year, kicked off at the end of May, and on the third of June Joolz Sparkes and I gave an online reading from our co-authored poetry collection London Undercurrents. We’d chosen poems that related in one way or another to the Festival’s theme of Homes and Housing, and accompanied each poem with one or two images. And although we hadn’t given a live reading together for quite some time, as soon as we started it all seemed to flow and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. More importantly, so did the audience! The reading was recorded and is available to view on Vimeo, thanks to the Battersea Society who hosted our event.

I attended several other Wandsworth Heritage Festival events, and continue to be inspired and excited by the area’s rich heritage. A number of online talks are still available on Wandsworth Libraries’ YouTube channel, and I’m particularly looking forward to watching A Tooting Childhood, with best-selling author Beryl Kingston sharing memories of growing up in Tooting.

Nine Elms was a featured destination of this year’s London Festival of Architecture. Alongside all the new buildings going up, new public spaces and through routes are being created. One of these is Arch 42, under the Nine Elms to Waterloo railway viaduct, which is being opened up as part of a new pedestrian route through Nine Elms. I was commissioned to research the history of Arch 42 and the impact of the railways on the local area for a webinar as part of the London Festival of Architecture. The timescale was tight, which made it quite a challenge, but I quickly felt that buzz of delving deep into obscure corners of history and suddenly becoming a bit of railway nerd! Once again, too, I felt so grateful for library and archive resources, and the patient staff dealing with my requests and queries. I was surprised at how many books about the railways there are in Wandsworth’s libraries, though I shouldn’t have been, given the huge impact they had on the area’s development, and Battersea in particular.

The next challenge was whittling down all that research into a five minute talk for the webinar. On the day, I was pretty nervous, but took some deep breaths to calm the nerves, and delivered the talk without any waffle or hiccoughs. There was also a panel discussion and I surprised myself by feeling quite relaxed as I contributed, helped no doubt by knowing my subject quite thoroughly by then. The history of the railways, and their infrastructure, is really fascinating, and I now view the numerous railway bridges and viaducts near where I live with a deeper appreciation.

I hardly had time to catch my breath before my next challenge – delivering an online workshop for Capital Growth. I’d seen their callout for online workshops earlier this year, and pitched my idea for a workshop themed around writing about gardens and gardening as a way to create a deeper connection with your garden and nature. The process then of developing my initial ideas into a full presentation including some writing exercises I found rewarding, though I did have to tune out of those doubting voices in my head, which love to undermine my ideas. I did a couple of practice runs with my willing guinea pig, Nick, to check the timing and test the content. Again, some deep breaths needed before the workshop started, and then the hour and a half flew past. Although I’d suggested after my first couple of slides that participants could unmute and chip in (it was a manageable sized group), this didn’t really happen until the end, so it was hard to gauge as I went along how engaged people were. But there were a few favourable comments in the chat, which encouraged me, and, as we wrapped up, in person too. And Capital Growth forwarded more lovely feedback afterwards. There are a few things I will do differently next time, for instance one of the participants pointed out that the Chat function on Zoom is useless for people who are visually impaired. But I’m definitely giving myself a pat on the back for delivering my first online workshop.

I’m also, in a very small way, involved in this year’s Wandsworth Arts Fringe. Nine Elms based creative duo WHABBstudio asked for community responses to the question ‘How do you feel about climate change?’ I sent in a reworked version of a short poem I’d posted on Twitter in response to Poets for the Planet’s #BeginAfresh prompt last year. You can see this and other responses online and at various sites around the borough during the Fringe. My poem is on display at Downshire Field, Alton Estate SW15 4PS.

Lastly, my absolute cultural highlight of June was the Women Making History exhibition at London Scottish House. This is a display of over 100 banners made by groups of women in 2018 for PROCESSIONS to mark the centenary of some women in the UK getting the vote. The variety, creativity and passion displayed in these banners is uplifting and inspirational. They are also a reminder that the fight for equality is not won. As Charlotte Despard enjoined, we must BELIEVE IN DISCONTENT. The exhibition is on until 11th July – do see it if you can.

Nine Elms banner for Processions

towards dawn

. . . and here it is – the advent window Luke Walker and I have created for the Nine Elms Advent Window Trail. Our window officially ‘opened’ at 5pm today and I’m very excited to share it. Please enjoy a virtual chocolate 🍫 in celebration. You can read more about the background to this project here.

All the windows are now installed and if you live in the Nine Elms/Battersea area there are several walking trails you can follow to take in the beautiful artist-designed windows. All the windows will be in place until 2nd January. The theme ‘Light in the Darkness’ seems particularly appropriate this year.

Here are a couple more photos from last week, when Luke and I went along to see our window soon after it had been installed.

Our window is no. 14 on the Advent window trail. It’s located near the south-west chimney of Battersea Power Station on Circus Road West, at the end of Circus West Village. Thanks again to the Battersea Society for sponsoring the window, and Nine Elms Arts Ministry for organising this wonderful celebration of light in dark times.

Photos by Luke M. Walker

getting ‘indoors looking out’ out there

It’s a month since Stephen Graham and I took delivery of our booklet indoors looking out.  I’m delighted that I’ve already sold enough copies to be able to donate £25 to Refuge.

Wandsworth Heritage Service interviewed us – remotely – for their Archives from Home blog. Emma the Archivist emailed me some questions and I texted these to Stephen for his answers. You can read the piece here.

I was also interviewed for the ArtsWatch programme on Riverside Radio, via Skype, which was fun. Towards the end of our chat, the reporter Bev suggested we try to compose a haiku together there and then, which rather threw me. Usually I need coffee, and time to mull and muse with my pen on paper. But after I got over my initial stage fright, we managed to come up with a haiku about our Skype call! The interview is available on Soundcloud.

The feedback we’ve both received has been uplifting. Poet Josephine Corcoran posted this lovely response on Instagram:

Josephine Corocoran Instagram post

And poet friend Claire Booker emailed to say:

Your joyful pamphlet has safely arrived, and is lighting up a corner of my living room. It must have been such fun waiting to see what Stephen would come up with from your created words Your pen and page has certainly colluded well!  I’m very tempted to take some of my favourites out of the pamphlet and put them on my wall. But that would be sacrilege.

One of Stephen’s friends, John Paul Ekins, texted him:

I wanted to write to you to tell you how much we all (I have shared them with many friends) absolutely loved the book of illustrated poems you dropped over the other day. The poems themselves are wonderful (we especially enjoyed the one about the geese and the one with the clouds frolicking like lambs) but really it was your creativity and imagination in the way they are set and illustrated that makes them truly special. Congratulations, a stunning piece of work.

It really is gratifying to see how our work resonates with others. Thank you to everyone who has bought a copy so far – and it’s not too late to get hold of a copy for you or a friend!

indoors looking out – out now!

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Fanfare!! Here it is, the fruit of my collaboration with the artist Stephen Graham, an A5 booklet of haiku and tanka written under lockdown. The poems draw on observations from my second-floor window of minute changes and fleeting interactions.

Stephen has created a new script inspired by a book of St Cuthbert’s held in the British Library and the Nagari script used in parts of India. There are 28 full colour pages, one poem per page, and the booklet is decorated throughout. Our local printers, PowerPrint, have done a wonderful job. The booklet, in my totally biased opinion, is lush. The look, the feel – and the words, well, you can judge for yourself if you buy a copy.

I really love Stephen’s artwork. At one point during our exchange – mostly carried out by text message – Stephen texted me: ‘our styles fit – you push people to find your meaning, and my odd letters slow people down to thinking pace!’ That’s spot on. Collaborating on this project has given both of us a focus during difficult days. We hope what we’ve made together will resonate with other people.

I am donating £1 per sale to Refuge and Stephen’s proceeds will go to UNHCR for Syrian refugees.

indoors looking out

Recently I’ve been working on a collaboration, indoors looking out, with the artist Stephen Graham, and I’m delighted that some of our work has been selected for the online exhibition Covent-19 – Voicing Responses Under Lockdown. You’ll be able to view the exhibition on Instagram from 8th May to 5th June.

The collaboration began on the eve of lockdown, as an informal artistic exchange, with no idea as to where, if anywhere, it might lead. I know Stephen through our community garden. He’s a regular visitor to the garden and our artist-in-residence, creating a beautiful hand-designed pamphlet for the garden a couple of years ago. With the garden closed to the public during lockdown, I suggested to Stephen that I could try to write a short poem each day, and then text it to him to illustrate or interpret as he saw fit. Stephen was up for this, and so our collaboration began.

I haven’t written a poem every day, but more often than not when I’ve sat at my desk in the morning, I’ve managed to produce something. I’ve found the restrictions of the short Japanese forms of haiku and tanka a good frame to work within, and the subject matter is mostly drawn from observations from my second-floor window. Stephen’s pieces in response vary from abstract designs to loose illustrations; each one includes the poem in Stephen’s ‘odd letters’, as he describes them.

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It’s just over a week ago that I saw the call out on Instagram for creative work in response to the lockdown, and suggested to Stephen that we submit several pieces. We’re grateful to the Covent-19 curators, Faryal Arif & Nadin Hassan, for this opportunity to share some of our work. And we’re now working towards publishing a booklet. Do check out the online exhibition if you can. I’m looking forward to seeing how people around the world have responded creatively to these current weird/difficult/strange/whatever-you-call-them times. I feel lucky to have this focus and creative outlet – I know many people are struggling. Hope you and your loved ones are keeping safe and well.

End of November round-up

Wowee. I’ve been busy. I sat down yesterday morning and began a list of things I’ve been up to since I last blogged:

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Words for the Wild – I’ve had two poems published on this beautiful site, as part of their autumn ‘Fruit’ themed issue. I love the mix of poetry and fiction, and the gorgeous images that complement the words. There are recordings of the writer reading their work on many of the posts too. Words for the Wild is open for submissions on their winter theme – Gift. And if your work is selected, the editors send a proof for you to check before it’s published online – it’s something I always appreciate, and shows the care that is taken with each author’s work.

Severine – another online journal that publishes both fiction and poetry. And I was delighted to have a short fiction piece I submitted accepted and published in a very quick turnaround. You can read it here, it’s the first short story I’ve had published in over two years!

P1070901Nine Elms boards – along the stretch of river between Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and Vauxhall, there are several display boards with news and information about the evolving Nine Elms area. The Battersea Society has been contributing articles for the boards about the rich and colourful history of the area, in particular the industrial heritage. I’m on the heritage committee of the Battersea Society, and when the committee chair was looking for someone to write a new article for the boards, I put my hand up. I thought I’d write about the Southwark and Vauxhall Water Company, which I’d first heard about when I was a tour guide on the construction site at Battersea Power Station in 2017. The Power Station was built on land formerly owned by the Southwark and Vauxhall Water Company, and I’d come across several references to the notoriously poor quality of their water supply. As I researched more deeply for the article, I decided to focus on this aspect, and in particular the deadly cholera outbreak of 1854, which claimed over 10,000 lives across London. Nearly half of these occurred in households supplied by the Southwark and Vauxhall Water Company. It was the physician Dr John Snow who carried out the detailed investigation and analysis which established the link, and effectively proved his theory that cholera was a water-borne disease. There is a lot more I could write about this, but for now it’s satisfying to see my words up on the boards, sharing this important story with passersby.

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haul

Small Publishers Fair  – I should know book fairs are dangerous. We went on Friday 16th November, early afternoon, and after a couple of hours I emerged, lightheaded, and definitely light-walleted. Four Bad Betty Press Shots; two intriguing and beautifully produced books from the Lost Rocks series published by the Tasmanian press A Published Event; the irresistible Wollstonochlincraft by Annabel Frearson; and more…

Then there was the Musicians Against Homelessness fundraiser where Joolz and I read from our London Undercurrents collection, and we also ventured to the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to watch our very first women’s football game – a North London derby, no less!

Veganism – I’ve been vegetarian for most of my adult life, but have always said I didn’t think I could become vegan. That I’d find it hard to give up cheese, yoghurt, eggs… but after joining the Global Climate Strike on 20th September, seeing the hundreds of thousands of determined, passionate and rightfully angry young people protesting in central London, seeing the evidence daily  of the catastrophic situation we are lurching towards – well, changing our diet seems the least that we can do. So Nick and I have started on a journey towards veganism. I’ve been surprised by some people’s reactions, but overall we’re feeling fine and enjoying adapting and discovering new tastes. A small step, but hopefully part of a much bigger wave of change. I often post photos of our meals on Instagram! If you’re interested, you can find me at: @hilaireinlondon

QEH LRB – A different kind of poetry night, part of the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the London Review of Books, held at Queen Elizabeth Hall. A friend who had a spare ticket invited me along. Billed as Paul Muldoon’s Against the Grain, we were treated to music from Nico Muhly – a name I recognised but wasn’t sure what to expect, thankfully I liked what I heard!; imperial presence and poetry from Anne Carson; poetry and song from Amit Chaudhuri; and sophisticated conversation between Paul Muldoon and his guests.

Louise Michel talk – Housmans – this was a fascinating talk about about the French anarchist Louise Michel, focussed on her later years spent largely in London, where she set up an international anarchist school in Fitzrovia, for children of political refugees. Although I knew a bit about Michel, thanks to Nick’s interest in the Paris Commune, the two speakers, Martyn Everett and Constance Bantman, drew a much fuller picture of her life and radical activities. Her utter commitment and tireless campaigning reminds me of Charlotte Despard, though their backgrounds were so different. Another inspirational woman to add to my pantheon.

Fourth FridayJoolz and I headed to the Poetry Café on the 22nd, for the last ever Fourth Friday. For 15 years, the wonderful Hylda Sims hosted a monthly evening of poetry and acoustic music, and as many people attested on this last night, she’s one of the most encouraging and supportive figures on the scene. Hats off to Hylda!

NPG – Pre-Raphaelite Sisters – on my birthday, we went to see the Pre-Raphaelite Sisters exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. It’s stunning, moving, inspiring, so good I took out a membership and have already been to see it again. There’s a room devoted to Marie Spartali Stillman, one of my Battersea women featured in London Undercurrents, so it’s especially thrilling for me to see her work in the flesh.

Sunday Service – last Sunday afternoon, my LRB QEH poetry friend and I ventured up to Soho for this new poetry reading series at the newly opened Boulevard Theatre. In the bijou auditorium Helen Eastman, the tour-de-force behind Live Canon, introduced readings by Hannah Sullivan and Antony Dunn. Contrasting styles and subject matter, both consummate performers and a relaxed-but-stimulating way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Now, I’m looking forward to December being a quieter month. Ho ho ho . . .

 

An extraordinary house, and promming at Battersea Arts Centre

On Tuesday I was privileged to go on a free tour of the National Trust property 575 Wandsworth Road. This was part of an event for the National Park City Festival, a week of events to celebrate London being declared the first National Park City in the world, and encouraging Londoners to get out and discover more of London’s green spaces.

575 Wandsworth Road is a 200 year old terraced house, which was purchased in 1981 by the Kenyan-born polymath Khadambi Asalache. He was a poet, novelist, artist and civil servant, who had travelled widely and also held an MPhil in the Philosophy of Mathematics. The property had previously been squatted, but Khadambi saw its potential, and it was also conveniently located on the route of the 77A bus, on which he travelled to his job in the Treasury. In 1986 he started decorating the interior of the house with hand carved fretwork. The original impetus was to cover up a persistent damp patch on a wall of the lower ground floor dining room, but soon his intricate designs began to spread through the house.

575 Wandsworth Road booklet
No photos of the interior are allowed, but the National Trust booklet provides a good overview.

Over 20 years, Khadambi completely transformed the interior of his home. All the fretwork was carved by hand. Almost every surface has been decorated with carvings, painted patterns, or stencil effects which were actually painted by hand. There are eclectic collections of inkwells, lustreware, Coptic crosses, African bracelets, neck rests and more displayed throughout the rooms. In the rear sitting room, a painting by Frank Bowling hangs by the window that overlooks the back garden. The painting originally stood in the garden, near a mimosa tree planted by Khadambi, which unfortunately had to be cut down in 2011 as its roots were undermining the stability of the house. The back garden is not accessible to the public, but it’s clear that the garden was a very important place to Khadambi.

Khadambi left his house to the National Trust after he died in 2006. They took ownership in 2010, and the interior has been fully restored and appears as he left it. Tours are restricted to a maximum of six people at a time, and are usually fully booked well in advance. For National Park City Festival, the National Trust partnered with my local community garden to offer free tours to local people, followed by a workshop in the community garden. It was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss, and the tour of the house more than lived up to my expectations. The care, dedication and joy in Khadambi’s handiwork and his selection of objects and details are truly inspiring.

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Mobile veg trugs

After the tour we walked back in the rising heat to the roof garden, where Think Outside led workshops encouraging each of us to plant and decorate a mobile ‘veg trug’, inspired by some aspect of 575 Wandsworth Road and Khadambi Asalache’s creative life. The variety of approaches and the sheer enjoyment participants got from this activity was wonderful to see. The mobile veg trugs, complete with a small watering can each, will be on display at Battersea Arts Centre from early August.

And Battersea Arts Centre was Nick’s and my destination on Saturday afternoon, for a BBC Proms performance in the recently restored and RIBA award-winning Grand Hall. We weren’t sure what to expect, as the programme featured contemporary composer-performers, all of whom were new to us. Three stages were set up around the hall, and the fully restored Hope-Jones organ ready to go.

 

The concert was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, and introduced with panache by Georgia Mann. Jennifer Walshe opened proceedings with a bravura performance of her piece G.L.O.R.I.- a sort of vocal cut-up of popular song lyrics, which had me grinning from ear to ear. Next, Any’s Responses, by Neil Luck, performed by the composer and Musarc, ‘one of the UK’s most progressive choral collectives’, according to the programme. This was witty and unnerving in equal measure.

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Neil Luck and members of Musarc

Later in the programme, there were two more pieces by Neil Luck. Deepy Kaye included images and short film clips projected onto a screen behind Neil and members of Musarc, as well as a live audio description of Neil’s actions, which included shuffling cards and spinning coins on a dinner plate. Somewhere in there was a narrative, based on fan fiction if I heard correctly; as a performance it held my interest, and it wasn’t too long (!), but I wondered what the audio experience was like without the visuals. His last piece, Namesaying, had members of Musarc stationed on each stage, pronouncing nonsense words or names in drawn out phrases, while Neil signalled changes by hitting two wooden sticks together. I found it intriguing and would definitely like to hear this piece again.

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Cevanne and her Sonic Bonnet

Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian, one half of electronic folk duo Crewdson & Cevanne, was there performing solo arrangements from the duo’s debut album, BRACE. I loved her performances and stage presence. She sported a ‘sonic bonnet’, a bespangled turban incorporating a midi-controller, which she operated by pressing metallic buttons on the headdress to trigger rhythms or effects. Her last song, Sisa’s Well, includes field recordings of the hum from Sizewell nuclear power station, which resonates with her harp. We were near the stage she performed on, and I noticed two little girls right at the front, watching Cevanne and utterly entranced, tapping their heads and moving their arms, imitating her gestures. Two future composers I hope!

There were two more pieces from Jennifer Walshe, the last of which, NATURE IS A MACHINE, inspired by a quote from US entrepreneur Marc Andreessen in which he described reinventing himself every so often as ‘upgrading his operating system’, became gradually hypnotic. Then it was time for the Hope-Jones organ to take centre stage.

IMG_0740The organ itself was positioned in the auditorium, towards the back. Up on the balcony, the magnificent pipes and bellows were uplit in dark pink. Kit Downes saddled his steed, so to speak, and drew forth some magnificent sounds from the revamped organ, which was originally installed in 1901, when the building was Battersea Town Hall. It’s a powerful beast.

The afternoon’s programme rounded off with five pieces performed by cellist-composer Oliver Coates, who apparently has opened for Thom Yorke and provided the score for a Karl Lagerfeld show, amongst many other credits. I wasn’t really taken by the mix of plangent amplified cello over sweeps of synth sounds and digitised beats. His last piece however, Reunification, was much more to my taste, just the cello with lots of feedback and dirty noise – the opposite of the sweet and mellow sounds usually associated with the instrument (and which I love in many contexts); his Blixa Bargeld moment winning me over at the end.

And a lovely coincidence I found when I read through the programme notes this morning – Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian was Composer-in-Residence with the London Symphony Orchestra at 575 Wandsworth Road in 2015-17!

 

By Our Own Hand – first outing

Last Friday was the  preview of the very first showing of By Our Own Hand, a collaborative artwork devised by the artist Richard Grayson. It was also the  first exhibition in Matt’s Gallery’s new space in Nine Elms – a double celebration!

Whole work

The finished artwork is made up of 42 panels designed and stitched primarily by members of the local community, which spell out the phrase BOREDOM IS ALWAYS COUNTER-REVOLUTIONARY. We have Guy Debord to thank for that provocative statement. Merci, Guy, je suis d’accord avec vous.

After so many months last year working on my own panel, and becoming very attached to my letter A and the stitching process itself, it was wonderful to see the finished piece and, briefly, be reunited with my panel. I’m inordinately proud of my contribution, and found my involvement in the project very rewarding.  Once again, I was struck by the skill and variety of approaches the other participants brought to their panels. Overall, it’s a visually stunning piece, I think, and joyous, and humbling. There’s also a beautiful catalogue, with a full colour page devoted to each panel, all the participants credited, and comments from most of us at the back.

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All my own work!

The work was only on display for the weekend, as the new gallery space is still under construction. I went back on both the Saturday and Sunday, to marvel again at all the work that went into creating this piece, and also to have a nose around the new and yet-to-be-completed development of the wider site. I’m ambivalent about much of it, but the arrival of Matt’s Gallery in my neighbourhood is very welcome. If nothing else, they throw a good preview!

Listening
listening to speeches

walking to art

I’m lucky to live within walking distance of both Tate Britain and Tate Modern. Neither is a short walk – about 40 minutes to Tate Britain and closer to an hour to Tate Modern – but if the weather is fine it’s great to combine mild exercise with some culture, and along the way take in the ever-changing Thames riverfront.

The Sunday before last we walked to Tate Britain to see the Queer British Art exhibition. I enjoyed this show a lot, and found it both moving and uplifting. It’s a mix of art and sociological history, telling an important story of the gradual and often painfully won changes that have led to a greater valuing and acceptance of different gender identities and sexualities. The curators don’t claim the exhibition is comprehensive – much queer art has been lost or destroyed – but part of an ongoing conversation to recover previously hidden artworks and life stories of queer British artists.

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Rainbow flags on the railings outside Tate Britain

As far as the art itself is concerned, I was particularly drawn to the semi-abstract paintings of Keith Vaughan, a new discovery for me. The show is on until 1st October, so I’m hoping to visit again.

Then on Thursday afternoon, we sauntered in the heat to Tate Modern, and feasted our eyes on the stunning work of Fahrelnissa Zeid. I’d never heard of her before, and the exhibition is a revelation. She was a major 20th century artist, whose work draws on a number of traditions, including Western, Islamic and Byzantine art. Her life was nearly as colourful and kaleidoscopic as her art, spanning most of the last century, with periods spent in Istanbul (where she was born into an Ottoman family), Berlin in the 1930s, London, Paris and finally Amman in Jordan, where she taught painting to young women and encouraged their involvement in art.

She painted huge abstract canvases that pulsate with colour and energy. Towards the end of her life she moved away from abstraction to paint a series of very striking portraits. I love an exhibition which gives me goosebumps and makes me smile – this show did that in spades. I will definitely be returning, more than once, before it finishes on 8th October.

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post art drinks on the terrace

Time then for a debrief and refreshing drink on the southside roof terrace of the members’ room, before wandering slowly back to Battersea along the riverfront.

a week in the Thrive Hut

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This hut, in Thrive’s main garden in Battersea Park, was my home for five days last week. Well, between around 10 in the morning to 4:30 in the afternoon. No sleeping over!

In the run up to Thrive’s Chelsea Fringe week of events at the end of May, invited  local artists have had the opportunity to use the Hut as a base for producing new work, which will then be on display during the festival week.  Mel Barry, who’s curating the Art Hut, asked if I would like to make use of the Hut ahead of my reading on Friday 26th May. A small space, away from day-to-day distractions, and a chance to gather material and hopefully write new poems. Yes please!

So, last Monday I headed over to the park with a few essentials: dictionary, thesaurus, scrap paper, notebook, pen and pencils, a few gardening themed books, ground coffee and a coffee plunger. Thankfully, I could use the kitchen and loo in Thrive’s office, and once I’d signed for the key to the Hut I could come and go as I pleased.

I wrote or made notes in the mornings, went for walks, chatted to some of the staff and volunteers, read extracts in The Writer in the Garden and random poems from Flora Poetica – sometimes out loud, on my own in the Hut. I welcomed a couple of visitors. I took photos on my phone, and resisted checking emails. Every day I had a tasty sandwich for lunch – thank you, Nick!

Mel mentioned that some of the artists whose work will be on show in the Hut have incorporated found objects or foraged material in their pieces. I thought this might be an interesting approach for me to try, so I jotted down scraps of conversation I heard as I was walking round the park as well as phrases and texts from signs and notices. I’ve written one poem which is a partial collage of words selected from two of the books I had with me – a variation on a challenge set for my next Stanza group meeting. Another is a mix of overheard snippets, found text and visual juxtapositions. More ideas are bubbling under.

At the end of the week, I packed up, tidied the Hut as best I could and returned the key. Then I met Mel and some of the local artists she works with, including a couple of talented teenagers, in a nearby hostelry, for an hour’s conversation about nature, art and poetry. Mel had brought some small art works to show me, and I shared a few poems with the group. All in all a stimulating week, and one which should yield more poems in the coming weeks.

I’ll be reading new and nearly-new garden-themed poems in Thrive’s main garden on Friday 26th May at 1pm. Come along, browse the art, eat cake and listen!

My thanks to Thrive for the use of the Hut, and to Mel at Popsy Set for facilitating this.

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The poet hard at work

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