Thursday 15th May 2014

I’m in the archives, in the midst of the late 1880s and the numbers of petitions are snowballing.

My original way of documenting the petitions is unravelling. Damn! I thought I was a natural archivist – but now I realise I have a lot to learn. I laugh about it with the archivist, Richard who is on duty today.

Each day a different archivist sits in with whoever has booked. The archivist sits at their desk facing us. It could feel like you were sitting an exam and being watched for cheating, except they seem quite relaxed – as long as you don’t take in a pen. I’ve developed a taste for their pencils that sit in a cup on the desk and always fancy popping one into my laptop bag on the way out. Richard has been helping me understand how to read the information I am coming across in all the books. He’s been super helpful.

Last week he walked with me and showed me a new route through the Palace courtyards so I don’t get lost and I can get to Portcullis House easier – which means I can now grab a sandwich and get back to work quicker!


Portcullis House. Image: UK Parliament

This afternoon, I meet with Melanie in Portcullis House. I love it here – it’s light, open and modern, and there’s a buzz about the place. We were going to go through my research programme. I felt nervous, as I wasn’t quite sure if my documents were heading in the right direction –but as it goes, I think it was just right.

I relax and we start talking about possible sites for the artwork. I take a deep breath and decide to divulge some of the initial ideas I’ve been having. There’s always a worry that I could be way off, but I describe my idea of digging up the floor in Westminster Hall and inserting a large glass ring, lit from underneath on the site of the original fire pit. I would replace the old smoke hatch in the roof above with a stained glass panel. Melanie didn’t seem to wince!

We talked about the logistical problems associated with the idea – the place is a World Heritage Site, but we decided that didn’t mean it couldn’t happen.

I talked about another site I was interested in – the empty space above St Stephen’s doorway – logistically a much more promising spot, but maybe not quite as exciting?

After a really positive meeting, Melanie took me to one of the art archives and we looked through some of the work. To me, the archive lacked works with colour – I’d like to make some prints that really bring Parliament to life with some bold colours. I went home on a high – full of ideas and hope.

Come back on Thursday 18 August 2016, when Mary meets artist, musician and activist Alannah Currie…