'VIVIENNE SOMETIMES' - Exhibition & Talk at Hackney Archives
Updated: Jun 27
I met with Dr Etienne Joseph in December 2022 at Hackney Archives, to discuss the forthcoming talk and exhibition about Northumberland House Private Mental Hospital and the life of Vivien Haigh Wood Eliot.
We discussed the possibility of performing the show VS at HA at the end of April (awaiting confirmation of the performance date).
Currently, I am working on a new set of images for the exhibition that will combine residents' memories of the Northumberland House site and archival (postcard and photographic) images of the building. I am experimenting with typography to overlay memory excerpts from the website Haringey Online about Northumberland House onto images held at Hackney Archives.
The IMAGE SAMPLE below combines a well-known archival image of Vivienne, a photograph of one of the day rooms of Northumberland House (the latter courtesy of Hugh Flouch) and a quotation from an earlier version of Vivienne Sometimes (Fitzgerald, 2018).
My original 2018 text for 'Vivienne Sometimes' drew on feminist rewritings of popular fairytales. Confined to the 'nowhere garden' of Northumberland House, Vivien is locked into the familiar fairytale tableau of sleeping and waiting - awaiting 'release' in the form of her American prince, TS Eliot, who in fact never visited her. The earlier text aimed to voice Vivien's isolation and hurt but also her ability - borne out in her stories and letters - to write ironically about their shared life:
'There are no dragons to slay, Tom. You might simply enter at the gate. A lion guards it but he is made all of stone and has a rather laughable tail.
(Didn't Dreamland on the coast have circus lions, once upon a time).'
The reworked image and text sits Vivien at the window, looking out perhaps towards Northumberland House gates and the Percy family's straight-tailed lion that stood above them. The clipped citation retains the (cruelly) ironic stance that Vivien is known to have sometimes adopted about TS Eliot (see Ann Pasternak Slater's biography The Fall of a Sparrow, 2020).