Writing spaces

An ever-growing list of places to write, as recommended by members of 26.

The Royal Festival Hall has lots of open spaces on its upper floors where you can grab a seat or even a sofa, and no one will hassle you, however long you stay. The National Poetry Library is there too, and they have quiet areas for writers (it’s free to join).

Home community café, housed in St Andrew’s Church on Garratt Lane in Earlsfield, is a mellow place to write. Scrubbed pine tables, delicious vegetarian food, and free wifi.

The National Archives at Kew feels a bit like a university – studious atmosphere, cheap canteen and some decent outdoor space if the weather’s good.

– Jill Hopper

Particularly because I’ve been writing a novel with art, painting and sculpture at its heart, I’ve been writing a lot in the Royal Academy’s Academicians Room and the British Museum’s Friends Room.

 – John Simmons

Churches… very peaceful and contemplative.

– Claire Bodanis

The place I write the most is on aeroplanes. I always write with fountain pen in notebook. Like this:

I discovered, more by accident than design, that the pace at which I scribe suits the pace at which I think. So it became my process. A very pleasing one. Seeing the transfer of ink on to the page is something we have mostly lost in this digital age. Where the rhythm of the typewrite with its mini symphony of sounds? 

My pen will scratch slightly when there is a rare moment of silence. I hear it move across the page. I love that. Of course, there is too much background noise on an aeroplane to catch the pen-on-paper. On ordinary economy flights there is nothing but a struggle to use a laptop so I simply don’t.

There is one danger in this process, once the plane reaches a certain altitude the lower cabin pressure can cause the ink to flow suddenly at speed from the nib and a few of my early pages contain glorious blobs. This was particularly the case using a Montblanc, as the nib was medium. I experimented with other fountain pens and eventually found that MUJI’s one and only version is very thin and can survive the flight without creating a Rorsach test on the page.

What this means is that my books are written in two thicknesses of line. Montblanc broad-strokes and MUJI fine-strokes. I feel this adds to their charm.

– Steve Boyle

I love to take myself away to write and my absolute favourite place to do it is at the sessions run by Charlie at Urban Writer’s Retreat. 

From one-dayers in the city (currently London and Newcastle) to longer rural writing retreats in Devon, Charlie is so supportive and creates a brilliant ambiance that’s conducive to getting stuff written! I am a lover of her 3 and 6 days retreats at Sitkcwick Farm where she cooks delicious for so you don’t have to think about feeding yourself – but she’s just started offering self catering retreats too. I always come away feeling elated at having got lots of writing done. 

More info at: http://www.urbanwritersretreat.co.uk

– Suzie Inman

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