Artist Residency at Hawkwood: Alison Joseph
"Even for a writer, it is difficult to describe how special Hawkwood is. I felt cherished, cared for, given this very special time and space. I hope to return. I hope they’ll have me."
What will you need? the lovely Hawkwood people asked me. A bed, a desk and a chair, I replied. Which is what, perfectly, they gave me. For a week in 2023 I had my own monastic space, warm and comfortable against the February chill. I could read, and think, and write, with no interruptions other than the ringing of the bell inviting me to yet another delicious meal. Away from my settled urban life, with its extended web of demands from family, neighbours, friends, the allotment – I found myself contemplating time stretching ahead filled only by my work. It was bliss.
It was also necessary, because I was embarking on a new project, a departure from my usual fiction writing towards a non-fiction work.
My crime novels start, as murder stories tend to do, with the mystery surrounding a dead body. And yet, faced with such a thing in real life, we find ourselves clumsy, swerving such contemplation, reduced to a fragmentary language that all too often ends in awkward silence.
It was chilly, but bright, with snowdrops pushing through the leaf mulch in the woods, and on solitary walks I could process my reading and my thinking, touching on ideas of narrative, of mortality, of beginnings middles and ends – the stuff of my usual writing but in a whole new form.
The silence and the solitude were a great gift. But so were the mealtimes, with their conviviality and their sharing of ideas, the surprising connections and conversations, the laughter and the wonderful food.
Even for a writer, it is difficult to describe how special Hawkwood is. I felt cherished, cared for, given this very special time and space.
I hope to return. I hope they’ll have me.
Alison is a crime writer and radio dramatist, author of the Sister Agnes series of detective novels, and of Dying to Know, a crime novel based around particle physics. Her dramatisations of Simenon’s Maigret novels are available on BBC Radio Drama. The next Sister Agnes novel, The Judas Chalice, will be published in 2024.