Wednesday 9th July 2014

This is the final push before I go on my holiday, walking in the Alps.

‘This time tomorrow I will be in France’ is my calming mantra, and I brace myself for a cross-party women MPs’ meeting after Prime Minister’s Questions.

I have a special golden ticket to the Speaker’s private box. I’m looking forward to wafting it about.

I wait in Central Lobby and again start to feel the nerves taking hold. I’m not sure how many women I am going to meet, or who they are.

Before I have time to panic I’m surrounded by four welcoming women: Tessa Munt, Eleanor Laing, Mary Macleod and Sarah Wollaston. They whisk me away to a quiet family room, and rearrange the seating so that we can get down to discussing my project.

All were warmly enthusiastic of the idea of a representative artwork and the spaces that I suggested it could inhabit. They all reassured me of their support and to let them know if I needed any help. I feel very protected.

The meeting was over in a flash and I found myself back in central lobby alone.

I take a deep breath and get out my golden ticket – into the speakers box I go!

My golden ticket to the Speaker's gallery. Image: Mary Branson

My golden ticket to the Speaker’s gallery. Image: Mary Branson

I sit and listen in to some everyday parliamentary business. To be completely honest, it was so dull that day; I can’t remember what they were talking about. My mind was full of architectural details.

A quick look at the clock, and it was time for my next meeting – with Mike Pierce, Protective Security Advisor for Parliament.

Mike was a surprise. I was expecting someone officious, maybe a bit defensive, but he was friendly, relaxed and ready to engage. I ask him about aspects of my work that I should consider from his perspective. He seems to genuinely like my ideas, and tells me that as long I let him know what I am planning as it develops, he’ll do his best to help me.

Isn’t anyone going to give me a hard time?

One last meeting before my holiday; another iconic figure from my 70’s childhood, CND campaigner and political activist, Dame Joan Ruddock.

Joan Ruddock in 1983. Image: © Pam Isherwood / Format

Joan Ruddock in 1983. Image: © Pam Isherwood / Format

I go up to Joan’s office; another person with fantastic views from her window.

She’s in the process of packing up as she is preparing to stand down as a MP.

For the third time today I explain what I was doing, and ask her if there was something she felt that I should communicate in the piece.

She took a long pause and spoke to me about how brave she thought the women were to stand up and be heard, with the real risk of persecution or imprisonment. She feared that prison was something that she couldn’t do; she had come very close to arrest on some of her CND protests. I understood this anxiety too – working in the prison has compounded my fear of that experience. She and I had had a long day, and we left each other deep in our own thoughts. I felt honoured to have met her.

I knew it was my last day for a while, so I thought I’d pop over to Westminster Hall one last time, just to check I hadn’t missed something to think about while I was away.

There were new security guards at the main entrance. I showed my badge and walked in. The Hall had been transformed for an evening concert. New lighting revealed the roof in all its glory and hundreds of chairs had been laid out.

'Zadok The Priest' by Handel being performed. I had a definite moment. I didn’t want to go home. Image: Mary Branson

‘Zadok The Priest’ by Handel being performed. I had a definite moment. I didn’t want to go home. Image: Mary Branson

Directly in front of me on the steps were a choir and a large orchestra. I knew Mari had said she was performing this evening, but I never imagined that it was going to be on this scale! I should have known really, in this place nothing is done by halves.

I sat and listened to the choir rehearse. The acoustics are incredible, bouncing around off the wooden roof.

I start to spy some of the people that I had been introduced to over the last month; everyone is soaking up the wonderful music and the space is really alive for the first time.

Come back on Thursday 27 October 2016, when Mary does a sponsored walk for Book Aid.