Grow? Do I have to?

I’m excited about Bloomsbury Festival this year. I have just completed “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron. It feels like the perfect preparation for this years’ Festival theme: “Grow.”

If you don’t know Cameron’s book, it is about exploring your creativity as an artist. Cameron describes your “inner artist” as being like a child. It needs attention, nurturing, fun, and opportunities to explore, if it is to grow.  She recommends taking your inner artist out on a special “artists date” once a week.  Just the two of you.

So, my plan is to treat my day at Bloomsbury as an extended “artists date.” I expect to do a lot of meandering around the streets, meditating on the best ways to learn and grow.

In the event, it is pouring with rain. I take shelter in a café, and watch a bunch of schoolkids, on a trip, shambling along with enormous backpacks, high vis waterproofs and clipboards. I suppose they are learning and growing, but they look a bit fed up.

Do I really have to venture out, I wonder, dodge all those the students, roadworks and puddles along the Euston Road, to look at exhibitions? Isn’t that a bit of an effort? Almost as much of an effort as organizing an artist’s date, for my inner artist every week. Perhaps I could just stay in the café? The cinnamon buns look nice.

Fortunately, I have Giuseppe Mario Urso to challenge my negative thinking. He tells about the journey he has been on to create his wonder box. He had the idea during lockdown, so designed it in his living room. It reached nearly up to his ceiling. Then he had to dismantle it and put it back up again, in its new location at St Pancras Church. When I arrive, he has to fiddle with the technology to make sure it works. He has put a lot of energy, passion and effort into creating his piece.

I stay in the wonder box and watch the film several times. It is amazing, sparking off ideas for me about how to find new space in your head, the importance of seeing things differently, and the journey it takes to do that.

I set off for the rest of my day as Writer in Residence, pondering the idea that learning and growth take effort, requiring you to take steps outside your comfort zone. Literal steps, in the case of Mike Marriot, who is taking us round the Smaller Squares of Bloomsbury walking tour.

Mike has read a ton of books to gain the knowledge he generously shares with us. The rain stops, the sun even comes out and Mike proves to be a master storyteller, teaching me all sorts of new information, about a familiar environment. I am reminded that taking steps (sometimes even literal ones) brings many rewards.

In the evening, I move on to a  range of lovely poetry readings from Dark Angels (inner circle.) This brings my exploration back to words, the importance of words and the power of poetry, in creative growth. I buy a copy of Three Contemporary Poets – I don’t know how much time Therese, John and Tim spent exploring their creativity and producing this book of carefully crafted words. I imagine from its beauty, rather a lot. I’d like to stay and chat, but I have to rush off to watch Lucy Andrina tell me How to Run Away.

Sadly, I know will have to run away to file this piece before her show has finished.  A poem pops into my head. So with apologies to Christopher Logue here is my offering:


Grow? Do I have to?

Come to the wonder box,

says Giuseppe

It’s too dark

Discover the squares,

says Mike

It’s too wet

Explore the circle,

say Dark Angels

It’s too hard

Run away,

says Lucy

It’s too scary

And I came

Bloomsbury pushed

And I grew


Margaret Kenna went to see A Room of One’s Own (Giuseppe Mario Urso), Poetry’s Circle of Growth (Dark Angels), How to Run Away, (Lucy Andrina), Jessica’s flowers (Jessica Strang) and walked round The Smaller Squares of Bloomsbury, with Mike Marriot.

Margaret is a member of 26 and enthusiastic participator of Dark Angels courses. This year she has been a writer and editor on 26 Plants. She will be at Wordstock on Saturday and you can hear her talking about being a Writer in Residence on Bloomsbury radio this week.

Margaret is currently working on her debut, psychological suspense novel, with Francesca Riccardi, at Kate Nash Literary Agency. She has also just published a book called “Giving Good Feedback” for the Economist Edge Series, in her other persona an Human Resources consultant, Margaret Cheng.


Return to 26 Writers in Residence

Day 7 (Thurs 19 Oct): Margaret Kenna