Current Artist Installations

Olivia Laing & Sarah Wood
A Million Candles
Mixed media installation, 2018

Voices: La JohnJoseph/Olivia Laing
Edit: Lucy Harris/Sarah Wood
With thanks to Tom Richards and Ali Smith
A Small Wonder Short Story Festival commission by The Charleston Trust

A Million Candles will be on display in the Hay Barn 8-23 September.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, in a time of post-truth and the curtailment of the citizen’s right to inhabit the world freely, what better moment to revisit Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, her love letter to freedom and transformation. Writer Olivia Laing and artist Sarah Wood have collaborated to create a wide-open territory for the merging of history, gender, politics and future possibility.

Marking the 90th anniversary of the publication of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, Small Wonder Short Story Festival commissioned Olivia Laing to create a new work, The Something-Nothings, which will be performed on Saturday 29 September. Working in collaboration with the Sarah Wood, this new commission has been transformed into a participatory installation for the launch of the Charleston Hay Barn – a place where literature, performance and the visual arts will be shared with audiences throughout the year.

Laing is the author of Crudo, a real-time novel about the summer of 2017, Trump and Brexit, love and anxiety which has received critical acclaim since its publication in June 2018. Her previous work includes The Lonely City (2016) which was shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism and To the River (2011), the story of a midsummer journey down the river Virginia Woolf drowned in, which was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and the Dolman Travel Book of the Year. In 2018 she was awarded the Windham Campbell prize for non-fiction. Wood is an artist filmmaker and curator. Often working with found footage and the archival object, her work interrogates the relationship between the narrating of history and individual memory and asks why preservation is made at certain historical moments. Wood’s recent works include the films Boat People (2016), Azure (2016) and Memory of the Future (2018) and Civilisation and its Malcontents (2017) – an intervention into Freud. She is currently artist-in-residence in the Kubrick archive.

Small Wonder was founded at Charleston in 2003 as a centre for excellence for the short story: championing new authors and commissioning new works. This year the festival celebrates its 15th anniversary and includes Lionel Shriver, Ben Okri, Neil Bartlett and Kate Mosse with stories which range from contemporary politics to mythological mermaids as well as workshops, reading groups, an international writer in residence, and the Charleston-Bede’s Award for a Lifetime’s Excellence in Short Form awarded to AS Byatt.

Please join us in the giant bed. Everyone is welcome.

Find a comfortable position.

Lie back.


Let your mind open and listen to A Million Candles.
Be part of the collective dream of a renewing future.

Also marking the 90th anniversary of the publication of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, we have:

Orlando at the present time exhibition

Orlando Reawakened festival


Coco Crampton
Horse Rub
Painted wood and horse shoes, 2018

Coco Crampton

The Truth About Cottages
Glazed ceramic and neon light, 2015
Courtesy of the artist / Belmacz Gallery

The intellectual centre of Charleston is the circular dining room table; a place where Roger Fry, Virginia Woolf, Lytton Strachey, Maynard Keynes, T. S. Elliot, E. M. Forster, Benjamin Britten and many others joined Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant to eat, talk, drink, argue and listen. We know from letters and diaries that they talked about every subject from literature, theatre and art, to politics, economics and war, as well as the many facets of life and society between.

Charleston today is a place where these conversations continue through exhibitions, talks, festivals and learning programmes. This new dining room table represents the continuing tradition of Charleston as a public place for thinking, discussing, making, writing and working. It is a table at which visitors can enjoy a book and a coffee; a table where you can hold meetings, book groups, craft workshops; a table at which you can work and create.

In 2015, the London-based artist Coco Crampton created three oversized ceramic lampshades, directly inspired by Quentin Bell’s lampshades at Charleston, for the exhibition Kingly Things at Chandelier Projects in London. These works, called The Truth About Cottages, are installed above Horse Rub, a new table designed and made for the Charleston Barns by Crampton.

Coco Crampton’s work borrows, hi-jacks and re-interprets forms of twentieth century art, design and architecture. Working across a variety of materials these new forms question the ideological and practical purpose of modernist designs, through the creation of playful landscapes, reimaginings of dwelling spaces or places of social encounter. Crampton graduated from the Royal Academy Schools in 2014. Her work has been exhibited in solo shows in Turin, Colchester and Norwich as well as group exhibitions including at Nottingham Contemporary, Wysing Arts Centre, Norwich Castle Museum.

Horse Rub and The Truth About Cottages. Photograph by Axel Hesslenberg

What's on

22 Nov
Bloomsbury Revisited Excursion

2-day excursion into all things Bloomsbury in London, including private tours and behind the scenes access to collections.

24 Nov - 25 Nov
Frost Fair

Come and do some festive shopping in our newly restored 18th-century barns.

02 DecTalk
Annie Sloan at Charleston

Spend a morning with Annie as she explains her unique relationship with Charleston. Get one ticket free by adding the code Annie2 at the checkout.

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