Seeing us through to the end of the year we’ve reached out to a number of our favourite artists and cultural creatives to join us in celebrating good things. A bunch of five things that make their world go around, inspire them or just need celebrating for what they are. There’s no theme here. It’s no kind of “best of year” round-up. These are just five things of the many things identified as making the world a better place to be. We’re all about positivity. Almost all of the time. We promise…
Alison Cotton is a folk musician whose revelatory debut album All Is Quiet at the Ancient Theatre was initially released in 2018 on cassette by Bloxham Tapes. Though occasionally likened to the glacially gothic Nico, Cotton’s expressive viola playing (particularly on the mesmerising drone-folk epic ‘Behind the Spiderweb Gates’) recalls that other early Velvet John Cale. It is extraordinary stuff. Her third album, The Portrait You Painted Of Me is out now on Rocket Recordings & Feeding Tube Records. A lot of Cotton’s music is inspired/informed by a sense of place so when we asked for a “five” we were thrilled that she came up with this brilliant list of artist’s and writer’s houses.
CHARLESTON FARMHOUSE, FIRLE, EAST SUSSEX
I love the East Sussex countryside and there’s one house which I’ve been kind of obsessed with since being a young teenager, so much so that my university dissertation was partly based around it. Charleston was the country house of the Bloomsbury Group and its incredible interior is decorated by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, the garden designed by Roger Fry. Close by is Berwick Church with amazing Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant & Quentin Bell frescoes and also Virginia Woolf’s house, Monk’s House.
SISSINGHURST CASTLE, CRANBROOK, KENT
This was the house of Vita Sackville-West and I was inspired to write my song “Violet May” (from my recent album The Portrait You Painted of Me) when I visited. In the centre of one of the most famous gardens in England is a really impressive Elizabethan Manor House with a tower. It was Vita’s writing room, up a narrow staircase on the top floor of the tower that inspired me to write a song about a reclusive artist living in a similar kind of tower.
BARBARA HEPWORTH STUDIOS, ST IVES, CORNWALL
A wonderful house and studio in Cornwall with a sad history as Hepworth died there in a fire in 1975. I remember the first time I visited, also as a teenager. It was pouring down with rain on a summer day and I was stood outside in the sculpture garden in the middle of one of Hepworth’s sculptures, completely oblivious to the rain and somehow trying to make plans about my future while standing there. Later that afternoon, I saw Donovan in a crystal shop…..I’m pretty sure it was him, anyway.
SHANDY HALL, COXWOLD, NORTH YORKSHIRE
This is a really incredible Grade I listed 15th C house where Laurence Sterne lived and wrote. It’s also close to the church where he preached. I often recommend this wonderful eccentric house to friends, there’s a brilliant tour guide there too and it’s really worth a visit.
CLOUDS HILL, BOVINGTON, DORSET
I loved this house so much that I named one of the first songs I ever wrote for my band, The Left Outsides after it. An isolated cottage that was home to T.E. Lawrence. I really got the feeling in this house that it was just as he had left it, which is quite a rare thing. Apparently as it was so small, guests had to sleep on the floor in a sleeping bag. In 1965 the sleeping bag was stolen and mysteriously appeared on the door step the following year having been posted from Belgium. Sadly he died in a motorcycle accident very close to Clouds Hill.
Alison Cotton’s recordings can be found at Bandcamp. Her most recent album The Portrait You Painted Of Me has been rightly hailed as one of the albums of the year in the recent The Quietus round-up. Get it on vinyl while you can.
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