A couple of times this year I took my sitting room – including sofa, chairs, carpet, bookcase, standard lamp and coffee table – into the public area outside my house. I offered a cup of tea to anyone who showed any interest in what I was doing.
It was based on a piece called ‘Encounter’ which a friend of mine, Jon Bowra, had developed on a street in Oxford as part of his MA in Social Sculpture.
An English person’s home is said to be their castle – a place where we feel secure, protected and private. So I loved the idea of taking it into a public space. Once there, I enjoyed looking up at my new ceiling: bright blue sky with moving clouds and no cobwebs in sight. Straight ahead I could just make out the waves breaking onto the shore. But what I enjoyed most was waiting to see who came past.
At home, I know everyone who enters. But out there – in the margins – it was open to anyone who passed by. I noted that some people were intrigued but uncertain – they liked to keep their distance. Perhaps, over time, that would change. But what I loved most of all was the people who came up and engaged. The conversations, the laughter, the getting to know one another.
Much as I loved doing it, it also required some courage to take up residence outside. A homeless man had set up a tent nearby some weeks previously, and had not been universally welcomed. Would I be seen in a similar light? As often happens, in going into the margins, there was an element of being willing to be vulnerable.