Creative Writing ~ Summer School

575 Wandsworth Road ~ the beginning, transformation & conservation

8-12th August 2011

Writers’ brief

  • Are you a writer looking for an opportunity to take your work to the next level? 
  • Is writing a hobby that you’d love to turn into a profession?
  • Would you like to work with a group of writers who are also at the same crossroads in their writing development?
  • Would you benefit from working with professional writers and world-class storytellers?
  • Do you need to hear honest feedback on your writing?
  • Would you like to be part of a unique project at this magical new National Trust acquisition?

 If you find yourself answering YES to any of the above questions then this might just be the project that helps you realize those dreams!

 The National Trust would like to offer a selected group of young writers (under 24 years of age) the opportunity to work with professional writers and storytellers, in order to develop their craft and increase their knowledge base of ways to make a living as a writer.

 ‘In the beginning, transformation and conservation’ is a summer writers project with a difference. The writing element of the project lasts for five days, but the work produced during those intense five days will have the opportunity to last for eternity. The stories produced that best fit the brief will be used to engage family groups visiting 575 Wandsworth Road.

 Details

  • Programme curator: Adisa  http://www.adisaworld.com/
  • 10.30am – 4pm Monday 8th –Thursday 11th
  • Friday 12th 10.30am – 7pm (including evening celebration)
  • Location: National Trust London Office, 32 Queen Annes Gate, London, SW1H 9AB
  • There is no charge.
  • Participation by application by 27th July to:  ruth.clarke@nationaltrust.org.uk
  • Please include contact details followed by a brief description (max 250 words) describing what this opportunity would mean for you.

 This project has been made produced as part of Stories of the World, one of the major projects at the heart of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. The Cultural Olympiad began in 2008, and used the power of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to inspire creativity across all forms of culture, especially amongst young people.

A Bug’s Life

When I visited Geoff and Alex to see the conservation and inventory work in action, I was immediately greeted with a vivid description of the bugs and larvae one encounters doing such work and an offer to see an illustrated poster – not for the faint of heart!

Clothes webbing house moths seem to appreciate the house as much as we do. Unfortunately, they are not the ideal housemates as they destroy wool and other protein based materials (for example, horsehair upholstery, feathers and silk). To the right, you can see evidence of moth activity on one of the kilim cushions. The kilims will need to be deep-cleaned because of this issue and the sheep-skin rugs, particularly affected, will be frozen. Here Alex is sewing fabric inventory labels onto the kilims, being careful not to cause them any further damage.
 

The team is taking measures to stop the moths in their tracks in order to protect the vulnerable textiles. To the right is a blunder trap – a little folded card trap with a sticky adhesive inside. After identifying the insect species causing the problem, the conservators can add a pheromone vial to the blunder trap. This emits the attractant to all of the adult males in the vicinity, the moths get trapped onto the sticky adhesive and a generation is wiped out as they are unable to reproduce. Take that, bugs!

Meet Alex and Geoff

Alex Solomon and Geoff Lowsley, who have been working together on the inventory along with Project House Steward Fern Ryan, share some of their experiences. See the Team page for more information on their roles.
 
A Mountain of Work
 

Alex had high expectations of 575, and had lobbied to work on the property after hearing all about it from other Trust staff. Her expectations were exceeded upon entering the house, and she explains it was quite overwhelming, both in terms of its beauty and the sheer amount of work to be done.

Geoff explains that working on the inventory has been ‘like a hike – it has its false peaks, and you gain a better perspective as you go through’. He says his first impression was that ‘there really was not that much stuff’. However, on his second visit to the property, he opened a kitchen drawer and, finding it brim-full of cutlery, promptly asked for another batch of inventory tags!

Office Space

On a surreal note, Geoff describes sitting in the bathroom on a chair with his laptop perched on top of a boxed printer, in turn stacked on top of the toilet seat (his makeshift desk), while holding a painted ostrich egg, thinking, ‘How did I get here?’

Alex and Geoff agree that each time you enter the house, you notice something new. A moment neither will forget was finding a Victorian kaleidoscope in the living room and discovering the magical effect it has on the fretwork.

Alex is grateful for the privilege of gaining ‘such an intimate view of what one person worked so diligently at’, Geoff concluding that ‘it never leaves you, the feeling that this is my job, my office’.

Inventive Inventory

Alex and Fern hard at work

The contents of the house must be removed while building and conservation work takes place. Each item in the house is an integral part of the total work of art, and so the team must ensure that everything is accounted for and will be reinstated to its original chosen position.

Labelled Dressing Kit

The team has been assigning each object a unique number, noting its materials and dimensions, photographing it and adding it to the Collections Management System. The items are labelled with their number and room and shelf location using a tag or special pen. No item can escape, from postcards to each part of this gentleman’s dressing kit, including the stoppers!        

Lustreware

Alex Solomon, Conservation Intern, mentioned the inventory of the chinaware as one of the more daunting aspects of the process so far, saying that one learns quickly not to describe something simply as ‘tea set’! The two living rooms contain a large collection of pink lustreware which is mostly of the same type and has certain recurring motifs, but is not necessarily of the same make. Moreover, special care needs to be taken when, as Alex explains, a tea cup posed on a non-matching saucer is not a mistake but a carefully considered aesthetic choice which must be respected. As they work, the team is developing a greater and greater appreciation of the complex, unique aesthetic of the house.

Welcome to the brand-new 575 Wandsworth Road Blog!

Behind the closed door of 575 Wandsworth Road, the project team is busy undertaking some fascinating work to get the house ready for its grand opening in 2012. We want to share this exciting story with you, so please visit us again soon for all the behind-the-scenes conservation news.

Jessica Juckes,

Internet Engagement Intern