Saturday 7th July 2014

Today I give my first talk to the Arts Committee* about the residency so far, my influences and the sites I’m thinking about for the art.

I have worked over the weekend to prepare a twenty-minute presentation. I’m excited that I’ll be able to catch up with the committee again and have a chance to gauge their response to my initial ideas. First though, I have several other meetings.

At 4pm I meet Lawrence Ward, the Serjeant at Arms. He wears the traditional uniform, which seems strange; but stranger still the fact that I’m becoming accustomed to seeing staff with these outfits on.

Lawrence is young, welcoming and smiles a lot. I can see why he’s a popular person around Westminster.  He instantly puts me as ease and I talk about the Serjeant at Arms at the time of the suffragettes, Erskine, and all the reports held within the archives.  He says that he hadn’t seen them. It surprises me, but I am beginning to realize a lot of people here have never been up to the archives.


‘Serjeant at Arms’ by Spy (Leslie Ward), published in Vanity Fair, 1894. Image: Parliamentary Art Collection WOA 650

Lawrence seems positive about my plans to create a piece for the St Stephen’s porch area, and promises he will go and have a look at the archives sometime to see what his predecessor had dealt with.

I said I thought there was a lot of detail that he would enjoy. The meeting was short as (like everyone here) he had several places and people to attend to.

As we part, I ask him about a part of his dress that had been distracting me throughout our discussion, a pouch on the back of his jacket. He laughed and told me that traditionally it could have been to keep money in, or it could have been to keep powder for head lice. Depends which story you prefer!

I look forward to meeting him again.

At 5.45pm I go up to the room where I am presenting, The Wilson Room, with its portrait of Harold next to the door. It’s much grander than I thought, with a large abstract wall piece in bold red. It’s great to deliver a presentation in Portcullis House.

Melanie and Frank arrive to support me and the room administrator hovers in the background. Frank apologizes and tells me that the three-line whip had earlier been downgraded to a one-line whip. This meant nothing to me, so Frank explains that essentially no more MPs will come now, as they don’t need to be in Parliament. So there’s not a big crowd, but we have a successful and relaxed discussion about the project. Jacob Rees-Mogg is there, who I got on with very well in my job interview, so I feel very supported and encouraged. I think I like politicians. (Really!)

Come back on Saturday 22 October 2016, when Mary meets the Speaker, John Bercow MP…

* Find out about the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art