Two writers have been found to creatively inhabit two of Britain’s most literary homes, as writers-in-residence. Virginia Astley, a Dorset-based poet, and Roselle Angwin, a Devon-based writer, will be starting their residencies at, respectively, Thomas Hardy’s Cottage and Agatha Christie’s Greenway this September.
Through their residencies, they will be running reading and writing workshops, talking to visitors, and creating two original pieces, inspired by the two houses, both of which are cared for by the National Trust.
Virginia Astley, musician, songwriter and poet, lives in the Frome Valley in West Dorset where she writes and takes inspiration. She is interested in putting music and the spoken word together and working in immersive ways. Her recording Maiden Newton Ecliptic documents a twenty-four hour walk around this particular village. Her poetry chapbook The Curative Harp was published by Southword Editions in 2015 and her first full length collection The English River: a journey down the Thames in poems and photographs will be published by Bloodaxe in June 2018.
Speaking on her upcoming residency, Virginia said:
“I’m very pleased to be taking up the role of writer-in-residence at Hardy’s Cottage. I’m looking forward to becoming immersed in the landscape and encouraging people who may be new to writing to take inspiration from both the landscape and from Hardy himself.
Exploring his penchant for ‘gathering’ observations of his surroundings and his thoughts in his notebooks and journals, I hope to encourage others to use the practice of close observation in their writing to hone in on the little things that inspire them to write.
Whilst I will focus on Hardy, I would like to explore the influence of landscape not only on his contemporaries, Dorothy Wordsworth, for example, but also on contemporary writers who make ‘nature notes’ such as Robert Macfarlane.
I hope to share my work with writers of all ages and experiences and will be focusing on the short form and how Hardy and the landscape of the property can inspire writing of this kind”.
Poet, author, blogger and environmentalist Roselle Angwin has been leading the holistic ‘Fire in the Head’ creative and reflective writing programme for 26 years. She’s tutored for a number of arts establishments here and abroad, and is the recipient of various Arts Council England awards, including for a year-long residency at Hestercombe Gardens in Somerset with a group of visual and sound artists.
Her several books include poetry, novels and creative non-fiction. Her poetry has been displayed on buses and cathedral websites, has appeared in numerous anthologies, been etched into glass, hung from trees, towed behind bicycles, printed on T-shirts, carved into stone, metal and wood, painted, sung, composed to, choreographed, danced, performed and eaten by sheep.
She’s passionate about place in general and especially wild places and the natural world. In her workshops, Roselle has acquired a reputation for three things in particular: encouraging the kind of deep seeing that a poet’s eye brings along with the imaginative response of a storyteller/novelist; inspiring a creative re-visioning of our relationship to the rest of the natural world and catalysing creative exploration through the expressive arts, primarily writing.
Speaking on her upcoming residency, Roselle said:
“A particular passion of mine is bringing together place and imagination. When that ‘place’ has both a literary connection and also an inspiring ‘outdoors’, I can’t imagine anything much more fruitful for a writer. The fact that the Dart borders the gardens adds an extra element – in both senses – to my delight.
In the past, I’ve worked on a lot of arts projects, often collaborative, often outdoors. They’ve usually been my own most creative times, and it’s been a while since I last immersed myself in such a project.”
At Greenway in particular, with the extra dimensions I’ve mentioned above, I’m looking forward, of course, to exploring the creative process myself; but also to sharing such an inspirational site – house, gardens, water – with others”.
The Writing Places project, a partnership between National Trust and Literature Works, is funding their residencies. Writing Places works to highlight the South West region’s rich literary heritage by linking present day writers with the literary giants of the past, through their homes.
We’re looking forward to working with Virginia and Roselle and can’t wait to see how they will inspire others to connect to these literary places and the writers who inhabited them in times gone by.