This series manifests the spaces women have created for themselves around the globe to work, create, and develop their ideas. It pays homage to Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own,” the book that taught us to find a room, enter it, close the door, and become.
Maggie Cole – harpsichord, fortepiano, piano
I live in Shepherds Bush, West London. The house which I share with my husband and our cat, sits at the end of a long road. At the far end would normally be the extreme bustle of people from many countries, the smell of all sorts of cooking, the commerce and colours of a working neighbourhood. Now in lockdown, it is quiet and subdued. As you reach our house, the quiet intensifies and it can feel almost like countryside with the now heightened experience of birdsong, flowers and blossoming trees.My blue room is up on the first floor facing south. The light streams in all day and the blue walls change in tonality and atmosphere. This is my work space containing music, books, a harpsichord, a fortepiano and my desk with computer. There is room to stretch out a yoga mat and to hoolahoop. A big mirror is hung on one wall which expands the space and is great when children come over and want to work on their dance routines! I share this room with occasional visitors when we need an extra bed. It always feels good to have the presence of others in my room whether it is a student, musicians with whom I’m rehearsing or a sleeping person.
The photo shows my hand next to a photo of a piece of sculpture. The sculpture was made by my aunt, Dorothy Ruddick, who was throughout her life an extraordinary artist. The photo is all that we now have left of this very beautiful piece she made. Through a series of events that came as a shock to me, this piece was thrown on a rubbish pile and lost. Having a memory of this piece of sculpture that I can hold in my hand, connects me to my aunt and to my father who was her brother. It reminds me of the strong line of women artists that came down through my father’s side. In recent years, I have re-examined many of the adjectives that were traditionally used to describe these women in my family – eccentric, difficult, driven – and feel how these words although sometimes true in my experience, are also the words unfortunately still too often used for those who are following a passion and demand their space.
It was hard when we first moved to this house, to accept and truly take in the fact that I could have a designated work room of my own with a door that I could close. Previously, I had always shared working space with everything else that needed to happen in our small apartment. I practiced the harpsichord under our loft bed. The piano was in the living room which is where I think pianos should be (for those impromptu parties where singing old show tunes just has to happen etc) but again, it was always surrounded by many other necessary activities. To now have a room where I could absolutely concentrate on work, be silent, stare out the window, dream, took some getting used to. I am very grateful for it and now the only challenge is keeping the amount of ‘stuff’ to manageable levels. I have a constant conversation with the piles of music, papers, little objects and pictures that interest me….. how to reduce them without losing anything important.
Being confined to our house has made me more appreciative than ever of this precious room. The particular blue of the walls is warm and nourishing. I have a few photos of my mother who died at a young age of all sorts of lung complications. I remember her terrible struggles with breathing as I read and hear descriptions from people who have had Covid 19. Also, I remember that it is on my mother’s side of the family that music made a strong appearance and that I am lucky to have had it arrive in my destiny. Having a room to go to and truly separate for periods of time from my husband is important. We’re functioning very well in this strange time with much kindness and love but we know just how necessary it is to go off into our separate worlds. We also know how privileged we are to have these rooms when so many are grappling with very little space. My room enables me to play music, meditate, dance, go inwards and sift through the many thoughts and feelings about the pandemic.
My room is carpeted and full of all sorts of surfaces created by music, books, pictures etc. The acoustic is in no way gracious or flattering. However, it has three windows and this amount of glass helps to embellish what would otherwise be totally flat. I am so used to the sound of my room that I never think about it as being a difficult acoustic. When I’m rehearsing with my trio, we are all well aware that we’re not being helped by the acoustic of the room but this doesn’t seem to be dispiriting. We equally know that most halls we play in will feel like an enormous treat. The street is eerily quiet these days when normally there would be many diverse sounds. What is abundant right now is bird song. It never stops, even at night.
I look down our street in two directions, something like being on the prow of a ship. My view at the moment, as shown in the photo, is filled with a smoke bush in full leaf and flower and a Norwegian White Beam tree. The whole street is wild with growth right now but at night when the street lamps come on, I can get a clear sweeping view of the empty street, the occasional cat crossing it, sometimes a fox trotting along and all the many row houses. I like to think of the hundreds of people living behind all these doors and windows – people from all over the world with all their different experiences of making a home in the UK (as I began to do over 40 years ago) and now their very individual experiences of dealing as best they can with the virus.
My dedication goes out to all the families in every part of the globe who to the very best of their abilities, are giving a sense of safety and ongoing possibility to their precious children.
Maggie Cole, May 2020