Study day: Landscape and Literature

Sunday 09 April 2017
10.45am - 4pm

‘Landscape and Literature: writers reflect on the South Downs and what it means to them and their writing.’

10.30am – 4pm

The Event

10.30                     Museum opens

10.45 – 11.00       Refreshments and registration

11.00-12.15         Alexandra Harris in conversation with Suzanne Joinson

Alexandra Harris is the author of Romantic ModernsVirginia Woolf and, most recently, Weatherland: Artists and Writers under English Skies, which was serialised on Radio 4 and shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize. She is Professor of English at the University of Liverpool and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She grew up near Pulborough, enjoys spending time on the Downs, and hopes to write about the cultural history of Sussex.
This talk will be followed by a Q&A.



12.15-1.00          Clare Best and Mary Anne Aytoun-Ellis launch their book Springlines

The idea for Springlines came from a walk on the South Downs in the drought of spring 2012. Starting that day, Clare and Mary Anne went in search of bodies of water that are concealed, forgotten or overlooked. They found places rich in history, wildlife, culture and myth.

This book presents work they made about some of those watery places – from dewponds to ancient wells, from old clay pits to furnace ponds, from chalk springs to the man-made pools at Glyndebourne, celebrating the variety and vitality of water.

Mary Anne’s paintings and drawings sit with Clare’s words, alongside short pieces by other contemporary writers. A selection of nineteenth-century British watercolours by Cotman, Cristall, Edridge, Turner and others – each treating water subjects – completes this exploration of some of the most evocative hidden corners of English landscape.

Clare Best is the author of four volumes of poetry and a prose memoir. She works across two abiding interests – landscape and body. She has written places as different as the Lincolnshire Fens and Lake Maggiore, but keeps returning to the South of England where she lives.

Mary Anne Aytoun-Ellis’ main focus throughout her career has been landscape. She concentrates on specific pockets of landscape, building up paintings which examine the elements that make a place unique. Glimpse and memory characterise her work. She has lived in Sussex most of her life.

1.00-2.30              Lunch and time to explore the Museum

2.30-3.45              Poets Sasha Dugdale and James Simpson read from their work and talk about how the South Downs has been a source of inspiration for them.

James Simpson is a Jerwood/Arvon writing fellow and was a prizewinner in the Thomas Hardy Society’s James Gibson Memorial Poetry Competition. His most recent collection of poetry is The Untenanted Room (Agenda Editions). His poetry has been published in Agenda, The London Magazine, Resurgence and The Hardy Society Journal and has been anthologised in Our Common Ground (Silverdart Publishing), a collection of poems celebrating farming and the countryside. Readings include appearances at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, the North Cornwall Book Festival and the Exeter Poetry Festival.

He has collaborated with the artist and printmaker Carolyn Trant on the artist’s book, Hunting the Wren (Parvenu/Actaeon Press) which was purchased by the British Library (Modern British Special Collections), Louisiana State University (LSU Libraries) and the University of Georgia (Main Library). Recently they have worked together on the artist’s book The Rhyme of the Reddleman’s Daughter.



Poet Sasha DugdaleSasha Dugdale is a poet, translator and editor. She has published three collections of poetry, the most recent of which is Red House (Carcanet, 2011). Her long poem ‘Joy’ won the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem in 2016. Sasha is editor of Modern Poetry in Translation and the international anthology Centres of Cataclysm (Bloodaxe, 2016). She is currently working on a commission to write a long poem about Wolstonbury Hill on the South Downs.






3.45-4.00              Refreshments and finish

Event organised as part of the residency of Suzanne Joinson at the Weald & Downland Living Museum in 2016-2017. Funded by Arts Council England.


Tickets are £25 per person to include all talks, entry to the Museum and refreshments.



Please read our terms and conditions before booking. Cancellations must be made more than four weeks before the event to be eligible for a refund.