Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Monumental opportunity

I had a fascinating morning on Saturday at St Edmund's Church, Warkton, a tiny village near Kettering, where I took part in a Writers' Retreat.  I quote from the church guidebook to set the scene: 'With Saxon origins and Norman remains, the Church of St Edmund is distinguished by its chancel, which contains an exceptional grouping of four world class monuments to the last three generations of the Montagu family of nearby Boughton House. It was designed and built in 1754 by Louis Francois Roubiliac, the greatest sculptor active in England in the 18th Century , to house his individual monuments to John, Duke of Montagu, and his wife Duchess Mary. The chancel had two other empty niches, which were subsequently filled by monuments to John and Mary's daughter and granddaughter.'

Time and environmental issues, including pollution and high humidity levels, had taken their toll on the marble, and so an extensive (and expensive) renovation project was undertaken. The monuments have been painstakingly cleaned and are now revealed in all their glory.

I joined a group of local writers for a brief introduction to the church and, more particularly, the monuments. Then we were let loose to use them as inspiration for writing, sketching or simply contemplation. It was a lovely atmosphere and we all scribbled away like mad. We could sit in a quiet side room (near the kettle) or in the church, and could come and go as the mood took us. There was no pressure to produce anything, nor any necessity to share. It was great to be given permission (by which I mean, to give ourselves permission) simply to explore and see what happened.

Everyone who took part has been invited to follow up with a 50-word contribution to a new guide book that is under development and/or a longer piece for a spoken word event. I have a couple of ideas that I shall be working up into something.

There's more about the monuments here.


  1. Sounds like an interesting opportunity.

  2. How lovely to have time to write in a beautiful, calm place with no one telling you that your writing has to be shared if you don't wish to be.

    1. Indeed. A Facebook post has come my way quoting something from Michael Rosen's page. :"My 6-year-old daughter was crying at bedtime tonight, utterly inconsolable. When I asked her what was wrong, she said "Mummy, I tried really hard to write a whole page in English today, but it wasn't good enough because I didn't have enough subordinating conjunctions." 6 years old. This breaks my heart as both a mother and a primary school teacher myself." Isn't that grim, Wendy?

  3. That sounds like a great retreat with no pressure. I can't believe the comments from the little girl in your reply above. What about creativity?