Thursday, 11 April 2013

Invitation to visit 'Mirror Falls' in 'Kite Spirit'

You are invited to visit  ‘Mirror Falls’ In ‘Kite Spirit’
Swindale Common, The Lake District
The glass sliding doors will be opened on May 9th … but beware of roaming spirits.
RSVP  Sita Brahmachari or Agnes Landseer ( Architect of Mirror Falls!)

When I was writing ‘Kite Spirit’ I was searching for a metaphor for what it can feel like to be in those intense teenage years when you feel that there is so much ahead of you to achieve and aspire to and yet making that leap into independence feels both exhilerating and dangerous. On a marsh opposite the holiday cottage our family often visits in Suffolk (It belonged to Rosie, the inspiration of Nana Josie in ‘Artichoke Hearts and was described in that book) an exciting new building was emerging.  Every time we visited I was amazed to see this contemporary building ‘The Balancing Barn’ begin to take its place on the landscape. But it was no ordinary building that jutted out onto the marsh. It hung off the hillside and underneath was nothing but a great gaping drop, with a swing attached for good measure… the swing of course would be perfect for my character Kite whose dream is to fly on the highest of trapezes – The Cloud Swing.

Lily Armah  plays the part of my character Kite dreaming in the heather in a short film inspired by 'Kite Spirit' .

I had already begun to write the story of ‘Kite Spirit’ and as I surveyed the building from all angles I was amazed. I had watched enough of the development process to realise that this cantilever house that hangs of the hillside was backfilled so heavily that the lighter frame of the majority of the rest of the building was able jut out and hang in space, suspended between the sky and the earth. I’ve never been inside the building but I have often wondered what it would feel like to look down and see that drop below you… and I got to wondering how Kite would feel if I placed her in a house like that when she is already feeling as if she is falling from a great height. It made me think of what it feels like to live through those teenage years, the pressure young people can feel and how important it is for the foundations to be laid firmly enough for you to have the courage to go out into the world and face an unknown future.
Of course as I wrote I had great pleasure in taking this real building and transporting it to a mountain in the Lake District and then changing its surfaces. My house is made of glass, with glass floors and ceilings and a powerful waterfall flowing beneath. Every surface shines.
When I presented her with my first draft my editor was keen to find out where ‘Mirror Falls’ is, and although I was able to share the story of the original stimulus, I’m afraid she was disappointed to hear that she can’t visit Mirror Falls in person because it only really exists in my imagination and when ‘Kite Spirit’ is published I hope it will exist just as strongly in yours…as you step with Kite through the glass sliding doors.

The Balancing Barn in Suffolk is part of Alain de Botton's project to encourage people to expereinece the most imaginative contemporary architecture.

'The light was fading fast as the courtyard and Mirror Falls came into view. The place was bathed in an eerie pink light, making the surrounding trees and the outline of the single-storey glass building resemble an etching. It appeared to Kite like an enormous glass barge jutting off the landscape, or perhaps a giant icicle.

‘I knew you’d be excited when you saw this place,’ Seth called after her, as he drove off the dirt path and pulled into the sloping courtyard. It was made of large sandstone slabs, flattening out at the entrance that was an imposing-looking sliding glass door. To its left was a giant earthenware pot containing a Japanese tree with spindly acid-green arms. There was a clear view from the entrance into the whole house. Through the kitchen she could see a wide corridor that opened out on to another huge room, with a spiral staircase to one side. Beyond that the room expanded further, ending in another mamoth window that mirrored the entrance. So they had come to an open-plan, see-through house! Unsettled, Kite began to wish that they were staying somewhere more normal, like the stone cottages with little protected windows and wild-flower gardens they’d passed on the way.

As Kite stared down at the gaping drop beneath her she wondered if it was possible for her to have drifted into a worse place. If she’d been asked to draw a building that looked how she felt at this moment, she would have drawn Mirror Falls. How could so much of the building to be hanging off the mountain without careering into the chasm below? One thing was for certain. Whoever had dreamed up this house wanted to turn things on their head, to challenge nature.'

The Angel of The North by Antony Gormley

As soon as the metaphor of ‘Mirror Falls’ emerged I began to be drawn more and more to the idea of architecture of buildings reflecting the frame of the human body. There is so much concentration on the external body and external acheivements but perhaps less focus on what is going on inside the mind. In ‘Kite Spirit’ Dawn is seen as almost perfect, willowy slim, faultless make up, a high achiever and yet inside her foundations are crumbling. The Iconic Angel of The North by Antony Gormley  appears in ‘Kite Spirit’ and when I went recently to see Antony Gormley’s sculpture ‘Model’… an invitation to explore the outside and then the inside of the artists body and mind… I began to realise how strongly it echoed with my thoughts as I wrote ‘Kite Spirit’.  I was thinking of the human body like a piece of architecture that contains and protects all the most complicated and vulnerable parts of ourselves.  In ‘Mirror Falls’ I have created a house where there is nowhere to hide. It’s a house that reflects the minds of the people who step inside it… and if those people should see ghosts then the house will reflect those too…
I asked the lovely people at Macmillan Children’s Books which houses from Children’s and YA Literature they would like to visit in reality… Here are just a few of their answers. Where would you visit? 

Hogwarts  (of course) in all the Harry Potter stories by J. K. Rowling.
Belmotte Tower from ‘I Capture The Castle’ by Dodie Smith
The Dump in ‘Stig of the Dump’ by Clive King
The garage in ‘Skellig’ (a personal favourite) by David Almond  
Jo’s attic in ‘Little Women’ by Louisa May Alcott
The Wilder’s cabin in ‘The Little House on The Prairie’ By Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Moomin House in ‘Moonminland Midwinter’ by Tove Jansson
Miss Honey’s shed in Matilda, The Peach in ‘James and The Giant Peach’ the Chocolate factory in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and Charlie’s grandparents house –OK that’s four visits but all brought to us through the mighty imagination of Roald Dahl
Mr Tom’s House in ‘Tom’s Midnight Garden’ by Philipa Pearce
William’s house in ‘Just William’ by Richmal Crompton Lamburn 
Green Knowe (You really can visit this one!)  In ‘The Children of Green Knowe, by Lucy M Boston.