Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Who you are

This afternoon I went to an event at Cambridge Wordfest, entitled 'Fenwomen' – the author Mary Chamberlain was in conversation with Liz Calder about her "Portrait of women in an English village" based on interviews she made in the early 1970s. The resulting book became the first book published by the feminist imprint Virago, and is a pioneering work of oral history.

This year the East Anglian publishing house Full Circle Editions brought out a new edition of 'Fenwomen' with photographs by Justin Partyka; I saw a review on the blog Caught by the River and realised that my family is from a very similar village in the Cambridgeshire Fens, not far from the one where Mary Chamberlain did her research. I ordered a copy and read it – to me it wasn't a glimpse into another world, but a reflection of my own family's history that I know from personal experience and the stories my parents, aunts and grandparents told me of their lives.

Today I felt a little bit like someone from a strange tribe sitting in on a National Geographic lecture. It's made me think about how we see the lives of other people, while our own is familiar and normal.

This short video was filmed last Friday at two locations
on the edge of the village where I grew up.



  1. Celia, I loved seeing your video. Whenever I read or hear a reference to fenlands, I remember seeing a play by Caryl Churchill, called Fen. I saw it in New York many, many years ago, and thereafter saw many more of her plays both here and in London.

    I've traveled through East Anglia on a train, and made stops at Cambridge over the years, but have never actually seen the landscape you've shown for myself. Some day....


  2. Celia,
    The Fens are an area I have never visited. We've looked at holidaying near the RSPB reserve at Welney but never got around to it. Your video illustrates a landscape that is wildly different to the one I know here in Wales but I would love to see it. It sounds like you had a fascinating afternoon. Events like that are to be treasured and supported. Lesley

  3. Such big skies - so very different from the rolling hills and woodland here - when you get a big sky view here, it takes you by surprise.

    Sometimes I feel too enclosed, and seek a big sky out. Loved the vast emptiness too, not something you get down here in the M3/M4 corridor, although we do have patches of fenland, that are carefully conserved by the county's Wildlife Trust.

    Thanks for sharing, I needed to see a big sky today.


  4. That talk sounds fascinating - I'd really like to read the book as my dad's family were all from a couple of fenland villages just north of cambridge. I remember visiting as a child, especially on "feast day" - I don't think they happen anywhere else apart from that area. I've inherited his love of big skies and open landscapes.

  5. It's interesting how people are picking up on the big skies impression. I did too when we first started coming up to visit the children when they moved here.
    Do you have a strong sense of this being your place Celia? I ask because I have moved so often to feel as if I have no place.

  6. I found this really interesting, lovely to see the images too - what a lovely thing to read the book and feel such connection. What an insight to see the beautiful images and views of the area and learn the sub-story of hardship and pain and sacrifice.

  7. how tall the field crop is already! my mothers' family is from nebraska. they were settling in by the late 1800s'. it amazes, & frustrates, to hear people speaking of 'settlers' & 'sod houses' as if they were ancient history. sod houses were still in use in the early 1900s' (have a photo of a relative in front of hers in 1918). *not that long ago*. people who speak of recent history as ancient often don't appreciate what technology we have now.

  8. Hello Celia,

    Just came across your blog and found it very thought provoking.
    Best wishes


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