Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Controversy rages over restoration of Roald Dahl's writing shed: UPDATED

The famous shed where Roald Dahl wrote many of his books is in urgent need of repair and may not survive the winter (see BBC video report here which calls it "dilapidated and dangerous" and features footage of Dahl inside the shed, and their radio report here along similar lines or download a podcast of the interview on Radio 4 this morning here). A fundraising campaign has been launched to save and conserve it, aiming to raise a total of around £1m (two stages of £500,000 with £250,000 already in the bag). Details of exactly what needs doing and why are still a little sketchy and we'll be bringing you more on this story throughout the day and updating this post - the news has already been heavily (and arguably unfairly) criticised on Twitter this morning (where it was a trending topic), by the Daily Telegraph and on the Facebook page of Radio 4's Today programme which carried the item although it doesn't seem as if, at this stage, the public are being asked to fund the work. The Dahl Museum's director Amelia Foster told the BBC that the Dahl family had already given generously to save the writing shed and that Trusts and Foundations would be approached for funding.

Here's what the Roald Dahl Museum says about the issue:
"The hut was built in Roald Dahl’s garden at Gipsy House in the late 1950s. It was constructed with a single layer of bricks insulated with polystyrene and was never intended to last. It’s now in a very fragile state and there’s a strong chance that the structure won’t survive another winter to shelter its precious contents which range from Roald Dahl’s famous chair, to his eclectic collection of objects, including his own hip bone!"
They say the hut - which is featured in the Shedworking book - is in "a state of accelerating decay" and the £500,000 is needed to carry out the "first phase of this exciting and important project, which involves acquiring, conserving and displaying the interior of the iconic Writing Hut and its contents in the Museum". £250,000 has already been raised but the second phase requires an additional £500,000 which "will enable us to make exciting changes to our education spaces and to develop inspirational resources for use both on-site and through our expanding work going out to schools, hospitals and the wider community". Uncle Wilco makes an interesting comparison on Twitter that Dylan Thomas's writing shed cost £20,000 to restore in 2003.

The plan - devised by Dahl’s grandson Luke Kelly following the successful relocation of Francis Bacon’s studio to Dublin's Hugh Lane gallery - appears to be to move the interior of the hut into the main museum where it could be enjoyed by all visitors (at the moment it is on private property and cannot be viewed by the public). A new interactive element would also be introduced into it. Here's his granddaughter Sophie Dahl's view:
“When my grandfather died, he left in his wake an aching gap, but also a palpable magic and limitless imagination which is not exclusive to my family. It is now time for us to save the hut, but even more importantly, to share it.”
This morning Sophie Dahl told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "You can small the decay, it's like stepping into a sacred tomb, but there are still many memories here...it would be selfish to keep it here, it's time for it be seen by the public." For further information on the fundraising campaign and/or to make a donation, you can email the museum’s director Amelia Foster at savethehut@roalddahlmuseum.org

Roald Dahl would have been 95 today.
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  1. i've been unable to work out, reading several things about it, how the money works and if most of it is actually for the 'interactive centre' rather than shedmoving costs

  2. Yes, it's not all clear - but then it's only the first day of the announcement. I've been talking to the Museum today and hoping to get an exclusive interview for Shedworking this week with the Director.