Ty Newydd: My First Writing Residency
It can be tough being disabled in an unfamiliar space.
All the habitual tricks and patterns I rely on to circumnavigate difficulties fall flat. It’s a risk for me not to fall with them.
I can’t grab a usefully positioned table, I need to learn where the uneven paving is, my adaptive equipment is all at home so I’m making things up and compensating as I go.
Staying somewhere new is a particular kind of courage; when non-disabled people say a space is accessible, do they mean an actual disabled person can access it, or do they mean “Looks O.K to me”, which also translates as “Just a little step” or the classic, “We have a lift”, said proudly. The infrequently used lift is almost inevitably broken.
In planning to stay at Nant, I was heartened by the staff’s attentiveness, generous information and Miriam working with me to see what was possible. I wasn’t treated as a disruption or a guinea pig to test adaptions, but rather as a writer at work.
If you haven’t experienced these difficulties, you might wonder why I anticipated them but they are ubiquitous for many disabled people and it’s delightfully shocking to meet respect. I was joyful to find that at Nant.
I was amazed at the beauty of the space and the welcome when I arrived. I was staying in Nant, a gorgeous, newly renovated cottage. I slept next door as it was level access but in the morning I’d cross the few meters to Nant and after making breakfast, I had an opportunity to write in the beautiful light workspace of the cottage, cwtched up under a welsh wool blanket or to use one of the three libraries in Ty Newydd.
I have always been someone who focused on being able to write anywhere, simply because I’d never had a special space or time to write within. So if I didn’t write anywhere, I wouldn’t write at all. However, having this space, I was shocked at how much it impacted my ability to drop more deeply into my work. How much was writing about swimming in the sea informed by sitting in the curving window seat looking out onto the sea beyond? Much of what I experienced there made it’s way into the piece. The quiet libraries which have held so much scholarship and reflection were a wonderful setting in which to reflect and innovate. I was delighted by the extensive collections of Welsh literature and I always adore librarians; a writer’s best friend.