Writer - William Gallagher
William Gallagher - Writer
What was your involvement in the project?
I was the writer on the What Is Home project and that chiefly meant conveying the thoughts and especially feelings of the participants. I think Kashif Nadim Chaudry's artwork is a mesmerising use of the objects we were loaned and that is truly what the project is about. But alongside his piece and connecting to it are the words describing each participants' perspective.
My role was to find the essence of what the participants felt and communicate that as directly as I could to everyone who visits the work. So I talked with many of them at the workshops Nadim ran, I learned from the National Trust people who have worked so closely with these people and care so much about them.
How challenging has this project been?
I've joked with the What is Home team that this is the hardest writing work I've ever had to do. I've been a freelance writer for long enough now that if you give me a word count, I can tell you how much time I need to do the work. Only, if I'd known in advance how many words I'd be writing for this, I would've told you I needed a single day. And instead, I've spent months on it because that's what the job needed.
It wasn't about the number of words, it was about the depth of writing and I did have to go deeper, to reach further, than I have on any other project. This writing had to be plain and simple, it wasn't about my writing flair, it was about conveying feelings from the participants to the visitors with the least interference from me and the maximum clarity.
I have loved those months even though did include a fair few sleepless nights. There was a point early on where I realising I was actually shaking as I worked. The need to get this right, the need to properly convey something so important, it was sometimes overwhelming.
And yet at the same time, I was working directly with Nadim and with National Trust people who made this a pleasure. I don't know how you can have work that is both overwhelming and a pleasure, but this was. Everyone had the same ambition to honour the participants and bring them to visitors without either embellishment or censorship.
It was a good team to work with and I am proud to have been involved. Even though I'm now sleeping a bit better, I also miss it and want to do it all again.
What are your hopes for the project?
I have one personal and rather biased hope for the What is Home project. I want to be invisible. When you stand in the room and you see this text on the wall, I don't want you to even be aware that I was involved in writing it.
What I want is for you to stand there, to read these words, and to therefore imagine the participants talking right in front of you.
Beyond that very specific hope for the text, I also hope and I am also sure that What is Home will give people what it gave me. It's made me think about my own home and it's surprised me with how I've realised that this doesn't just mean the building I live in. We create our homes wherever we are and I think our homes then create us back.
How did you deal with the central premise?
The central premise of What Is Home was of course about what home is, about what it means to the participants involved and what it means to all of us. For me, that premise went hand in hand with how I was working to support artist Kashif Nadim Chaudry's piece.
I benefited from literally supporting him during the workshops he and the National Trust team ran. I got to learn what home meant to him and how his sharing that feeling helped participants open up and explore their own thoughts.
It was actually when I felt I'd got everybody's feelings in my head that I felt overwhelmed and rather daunted. I needed it all and I used it all, but the way I dealt with it was to shut off most of it and only focus on one participant, one object at a time.
It was quite startling to reach the end, to look up and see where this had taken me. There are really strong repeating themes through what the participants told me and it's that which meant these individual pieces of text work together as a whole to answer the central premise.