Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dahl's shed: Day 2

The dust has far from settled on what some people are already calling Shedgate, the proposal announced yesterday to restore and move Roald Dahl's writing shed to his museum in Great Missenden. However, an initial hostile media and Twitter reaction seems to be gradually changing its position.

We noticed several tweets today and yesterday suggesting that moving the shed to educate a wider audience, thus preserving it and conserving it for all was essentially a good idea. In terms of national press reaction, the Daily Mail ran a long piece looking at the importance of the shed and allowing Amelia Foster, the director of the Roald Dahl Museum, the chance to explain the issues. Here's a snippet:
"We have to send everything to a special museum freezer facility just to kill off any pests," she points out. "And then we have to rebuild an entire gallery to accommodate this room exactly as it is." While the brick exterior will remain in the garden, the interior will have to be extracted by experts to prevent the cracked, nicotine-stained polystyrene walls from falling apart.
Perhaps most importantly she emphasises that the museum is not "asking hard-pressed people to dip into their pockets and we are not seeking public money" but rather is talking to grant-giving foundations and trusts. She said the same to The Independent and told the Telegraph (where Andrew Brown was rather less enthusiastic) that the point of the announcement was not to ask the public for money but to tell the world that soon the shed will be open to the public.

It's maybe worth looking at a similar situation, the move in 1998 of Francis Bacon's studio in London to Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin: archaeologists helped to catalogue the 7,000 items and the project cost around £4m, partly funded by the National Millennium Committee, a state-funded body. There was controversy over the money and some artistic objections, but the exhibit has been extremely popular over the last decade and, like Dahl's shed, does provide a unique insite into his work.

Perhaps the most intelligent piece was written by The Guardian's Mark Lawson who examined the whole question of 'the worship of writers' rooms' and makes an interesting point:
"The huge sum needed to shift the wooden room apparently comes from planning "an interactive exhibit to set the hut in context for visitors". For me, this goes against the spirit of studying writers' studies. My preference is for the desk to be exactly as it was left, because the writer's presence (if there is any) lies in the final scribbled notes, the optimistically uncapped fountain pen."
Finally, some critics asked why the literary estate could not fund the project, though it is worth pointing out that the estate already funds the museum and the Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity for seriously ill children.

For those of you who missed it, here's the interview that first properly announced the shed move, on Radio 4's Today programme.
"500k to restore Dahl shed" (mp3)
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