Wolfson’s Creative Arts Fellowships have supported composers and musicians, visual artists and writers. Current Fellow Nicholas Pierpan describes his experience of the Wolfson Fellowship.
When friends ask about my life at Wolfson, I tell them about the sunny office overlooking a garden; the College’s elegant modernist architecture and many rural vistas; exciting, active minds you meet at meals and special events; and most of all the peace and quiet in which one can work, a real boon for any artist. One mate replied “the place sounds like a Japanese mountaintop” and I guess, for me, it is.
To make the most of this tranquillity, I keep a fairly monastic routine. This includes waking up very early in College and stumbling over to the Annex, the promise of silence pushing me to my desk, ideally about 5 am.
There is a period of undisturbed reading and thought before the real world arrives a few hours later. People who work in the Annex ll its many of ces, and normality resumes.
I am also familiar with coming back from my office at two or three in the morning, the porter asking me, “What are you doing out there?” Sometimes these early morning hours are spent in the Wolfson library, or its nearby addition with a stunning view of Linton Road’s broad, straight route. The occasional fox will jump out under the halogen lights, but for the most part it’s hushed and still.
These are happy moments, coming before or after the usual day, times to cultivate real work in the best sense of the term.
Lately, such efforts include revising a play, William Wordsworth, for its premiere at The Theatre by the Lake in Keswick. Creative solitude was central to Wordsworth’s writing process. His famous poem, “I wandered lonely as a Cloud”, refers to “that inward eye / Which is the bliss of solitude”.
Finding one’s “inward eye” can be quite a challenge in the distracted busyness of our age. But the calm within Wolfson has enabled me to write a new play, a television pilot for the BBC, several television treatments for production companies, a handful of poems, and much else besides. It has also provided time and a place to read. After ten years in a bustling city, I’m very grateful for this.
Wordsworth was also careful never to equate ‘solitude’ with ‘loneliness’. Likewise, the Creative Arts Fellowship ensures that quiet concentration does not mean isolation. I’ve very much enjoyed the social and cultural dimensions of Wolfson. I remain amazed by the number of talks and events going on within College and try to make as many as I can. I have become friends with Governing Body Fellows, Research Fellows and graduate students. I have missed the company of academics since finishing my doctorate, over a decade ago, and am glad to re-enter this world of intensive curiosity. Meeting a few people at lunch can pull you into the worlds of their research, infused with rare intellectual passions.
Most writers have a magpie element to their character, and admittedly a couple of Fellows’ research topics seem to me great material. I am currently working with each to hammer their respective subjects into dramas.
As part of the Creative Arts Fellowship, I have given lectures, classes, and one-to-one tutorials in creative writing to a wide cross-section of Wolfson students. I have also organised several lectures and interviews with leading figures in television, theatre, and literature, such as theatre director Polly Findlay, playwright Nick Payne, novelist Benjamin Markovits, and former BBC Executive Producer Katie McAleese. Most of these speakers have stayed for a guest night dinner after their event and always remark on the wonderful people and character of the College. They also like Wolfson’s ducks, wading about the College harbour.
The Creative Arts Fellowship has been a great honour, and a productive one, for me and I hope for the College as well. Thank you for making it possible.