Dorothy’s Room

Dorothy’s Room

2018 (and tour), Rydal Mount, Ambleside, Cumbria

Dorothy’s Room is an immersive installation inspired by Dorothy Wordsworth’s Rydal Journals in which she describes “rural sights and sounds” in vivid detail: “blue primroses of Alpine purple”; the Robin who became a “singing companion”; “…hail, wind, rain, snow – Oyster Feast”; “bright gleams & startling flashes of sunshine”; hazy bulky mountains among slanting rays of the sun…”

Due however to illness Dorothy became bedroom-bound, relying on memory to transport herself into the landscape she had once walked.
 Her multi-sensory remembering and noticing of the ‘natural’ world enabled her to access the world around her and the past in an immediate and direct way that was therapeutic – a healing process that brought joy and calm and kept her from the “wilderness of her mind”: 

No need of motion, or of strength, Or even the breathing air: –
I thought of Nature's loveliest scenes; And with Memory I was there…

Extract from the poem “Thoughts on my Sick-Bed” by Dorothy Wordsworth.

Dorothy also brought “treasures” into her “quiet” room. The walls were hung with paintings, pots of flowers lined her window ledge, plants grew around her window, which framed the fells she once walked, sunshine and the “sweet sound” of a robin singing entered from the garden.

The installation, centres on Dorothy’s sick bed. Objects mentioned in her Rydal Journals nest amid twisted and disordered bed linen stitched with extracts of the later entries including a working-draft of part of her poem, ‘Thoughts from my Sick Bed’. A film brings the walks and landscapes she wrote about in those journals into the gallery, reflecting her memories and longings to be outside. It shows images, recorded by Louise whilst she re-walked Dorothy’s walks and walks that present-day women can no longer undertake, layered and edited to create an almost dream-like experience.

I went to see your video installation in the Scott Gallery - how well the spirit of your work simply shone out from it. There was a moment when lit water in the projections fell across the pillow which was so eloquent you hardly needed written exposition. Memorable.

Visitor, Peter Scott Gallery

Creator, Designer and Film Maker: Louise Ann Wilson

Project Assistant: David Honeybone

Stitchers: Liz Bagley, Catherine Bartlett, Lois Kirtley, Jean Simpson

Film Editor: Janan Yakula

Sound Editor: Lisa Whistlecroft

Women’s Walks to Remember walkers: Linda Broughton, Margaret Crayston, Jill Peel, The Tuesday Walkers (led by Sue Falkner), Wallace Heim, Harriet Fraser

Thanks to: all at Rydal Mount and the Wordsworth family, Peter Elkington, Marian Elkington, Hazel Seddon, Nigel Crook, Jeff Cowton, Melissa Mitchell, Poppy Garrett, Susan Allen, Rebecca Turner, John Coombe, Simon Bainbridge, Jen Kagan, Anne Wills (for showing me how to make Pace Eggs) and the late Harold Potter, who inspired this project

Producer: Louise Ann Wilson Company

Funders: The Wordsworth Trust, Faculty of Arts and Social Science at Lancaster University, Lancaster Arts at Lancaster University, wilson+wilson


Here is a film of me talking with Melissa Mitchell, Curator at The Wordsworth Trust about Dorothy's Room

Dorothy’s Room is a companion to Women’s Walks to Remember: ‘With memory I was there’ for which I am collecting the longed-for walks of that can no longer be walked. I re-walked each remembered walk and bring back 'treasures' – films, sounds, words, objects, maps – that are dstilled into multi-layered memory-booklet to share with each woman.