The Beaney – House of Art and Knowledge in Canterbury


As part of this study tour to research teacher and student writing groups, it was always my intention to actively write in different locations, following new and favourite writing exercises. In creating the itinerary, I signed up for a workshop advertised in the UK based National Association for Writers in Education (NAWE) newsletter to be delivered at The Beaney – House of Art and Knowledge. As I researched this institution, I became increasingly fascinated and knew it would require a much longer visit than the three hour workshop.


The Beaney, which also houses a cafe, the local library and tourist information centre, was established in 1897 following a bequest by Dr James George Beaney (1828-1891) who had made a considerable fortune in Australia.

I also discovered that The Beaney runs an ‘Armchair Residency’ program for creatives, and at the time of finalising my trip, the Armchair Resident was Sonia Overall. Towards the end of her residency, Sonia wrote a blog post titled ‘Have writing exercises, will exercise writers’  which provided a sample of writing prompts for visitors to the collections and exhibits.

I decide to exercise my writing and complete an activity in the morning, before enjoying Canterbury and attending the afternoon workshop. Here is my first draft in response to this portrait in the Materials and Masters room.

IMG_7851Annie Clara Dudley by William Salter Herrick circa 1850

Points of view

Find a figure that appeals to you: a person or creature in a picture a photograph, illustration, carving, decoration, sculpture, taxidermy…

  • Write a short description of the figure in the 3rd person, from an external point of view.

  • Now try to inhabit the figure. Think of them as a character and try to bring them alive. Get them to move, speak, act.

  • Write a simple scene from this character’s point of view, using the 1st person. They could respond to the scene they are sitting in, the gallery, or you watching them. If there are multiple figures they could talk to or about each other. Try on different voices to suit.

Description: Standing tall, posed with left hand over right and looking just past the observer. Her black gown is sumptuously edged with silver lace at sleeves, wide from the 3/4 finished edge. The silver and black brocade collar comes up from the slim waist and reveals a gathered bodice with lace trim over the decolletage. Her right wrist has a bangle, and her neck wears a double strand of pearls. Her steady gaze and neatly arranged dark hair in a chignon is offset by her cream complexion and dark eyes.

1st person: I am wiling to stand for my portrait because I understand this duty. This will be a record of my youth and vitality before our wedding. I know that you favour your artist friend, but I will not tolerate any sense of being apart from you, even though you will travel and explore and I shall be left to tend the garden and care for our children.

I am content.

Our time together is cherished, and this allows me to be myself in your absence. This is what independent adults do – no matter society’s expectations.


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