Chiswick Past Inspires Giraffe's Monologue and Humorous Poems

Winners of Chiswick House and Garden's nationwide writing competition announced

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Visitors to Chiswick House and Gardens will soon be able to experience it through the eyes of a giraffe, a suffragette and a mental asylum inmate thanks to the winning entries of a nationwide writing competition supported by English Heritage and the Chiswick House and Gardens Trust.

The winning pieces will be recorded alongside commissioned works from established playwrights as part of a planned new audio guide to Chiswick House and Gardens. The guide will be launched for visitors in spring 2011.

The competition asked aspiring writers across the country to submit a short sketch, poem or play inspired by one of six historic views of the gardens currently on display at Chiswick House in west London. The images ranged from an 18th-century painting of the orangery to a photograph of a cricket match played in the grounds in the 1940s.

Entries were received from across England and the winning efforts were announced, and performed at Chiswick House and Gardens, as part of the 2010 Chiswick Book Festival.

The strength of entries fielded meant that two winners were declared in both the adult and under 18s section. This meant that, including the category for Chiswick residents, there were five winners in total – two of whom are from Chiswick.

As actor John Rowe who was one of the competition judges and who announced the winning entries explained, “The splendid selection of scripts that we were sent in made it very difficult to choose the winners.”

English Heritage curator Jenny Cousins also praised the variety and standard of the entries: “English Heritage was delighted to help shine the spotlight on different facets of Chiswick’s rich heritage and on aspiring writing talent. The competition has yielded many inspired and unusual takes on Chiswick’s past – from a giraffe’s monologue to a sinister and unsettling piece on women’s suffrage. Judging was difficult but it was a real pleasure to read so many good submissions.”

In the Chiswick residents category, local resident Nigel Murray wrote a humorous poem which will transport visitors back to the summer of 1948 and was inspired by a photograph of a cricket match between Turnham Green and Middlesex CC.

Sarah Finch-Crisp, Director of the Chiswick House and Garden Trust said, “Chiswick House and Gardens has so much to offer visitors on so many levels - history, art, architecture and horticulture. It means so many different things to the many visitors who come here each year. It is wonderful to see that richness reflected in the imagination of the competition entries and in what will be our new audio guide for 2011.”

Under 15s

Florence Read, 15. Florence’s entry ‘It’s Not Bill’ is an inner monologue describes the thoughts of William Kent, who helped Lord Burlington design the gardens at Chiswick, as he watched rabbits dance in the moonlight.

Under 18s
Lily Hewitt, 17. Lily’s thoughtful piece 'Long Necked Visitors' is told from the perspective of a giraffe, which had been a major attraction at one of the 6th duke of Devonshire’s grand parties held in the gardens of Chiswick.

Chiswick Residents
Nigel Macarthur . Chiswick resident Nigel’s humorous poem 'A Sporting Tradition' about clandestine activity was inspired by a photograph of a cricket match between Turnham Green and Middlesex CC played in the summer of 1948 at Chiswick.

Jo Thomas. 'A Place of Healing' was inspired by an image of two Victorian ladies walking in the gardens at the time Chiswick House was a mental asylum. Jo’s entry imagines their conversation and thoughts about women’s suffrage.

Katherine Kavanagh. Katherine’s dramatic and highly original piece entitled 'Critics' Circle' as inspired by the orangery in the gardens.

The judging panel for the competition comprised: actor John Rowe (The Archers, Lagaan, Doctors); Director Vicky Ireland, whose credits include bringing Jacqueline Wilson’s books to the stage; Michelle Penn of Antenna Audio, specialists in creating audio guides; and Jenny Cousins of English Heritage.

As well as being professionally recorded for Chiswick’s forthcoming audio guide, each winning entry was performed at Chiswick by members of the charity InterAct which offers a reading service for patients recovering from strokes. Winners also received an English Heritage membership and a hamper.

September 23, 2010