A Poet in the Garden was an exhibition exploring Vauxhall Gardens from the perspective of those who use the park every day. It consisted of a series of poems by the poet Jackie Wills based on conversations she had with visitors to the park and photographs by Damian Walker. The exhibition exhibited a unique and contemporary picture of Vauxhall Gardens as they exist today.
The exhibition was the result of a project created by curators Max Jones and Ryan Blakeley which aimed to start a dialogue around the nature of our relationships with green spaces of the city. They chose Vauxhall Gardens as the focus because of its rich history and connection to our cultural heritage. First opened by Jonathan Tyers in 1729 as Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens it was a public space for the viewing of the arts. It played host to the likes of Handel, Dickens, Roubiliac and many other influential figures from within the artistic, literary and musical worlds. It was perhaps the first public setting to display paintings by William Hogarth and Francis Hayman and it was even the subject of one of Canaletto’s paintings. The Pleasure Gardens were closed in 1859 and the land was subsequently developed.
Jackie Wills is a widely published journalist, writer, and poet who has forged a career exploring relationships, female experience, memory and place. She was approached because of her ability to engage with a wide variety of subject matter, and for the very human and wonderfully British literary voice that has become synonymous with her work.
Jackie’s poems were displayed at the Garden Museum between the 22nd March and 8th April 2018, together with photographs of the day in Vauxhall Gardens when she was ‘a poet in the park’.
A Poet in the Garden was a collaboration between the Garden Museum and Camberwell, Chelsea, Wimbledon Graduate School, University of the Arts London made possible by funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Max and Ryan are recent graduates of the MA in Curating and Collections at Chelsea College of Arts.