Talliston has to be experienced to be believed.
A year ago, I played a short concert for the Congleton Unplugged festival, a local gig just round the corner from my home. One of the pieces I played was an open form score by Rachel Graff (co-collaborator on these current projects), called ...the room kept on ticking by itself. By chance, one of the audience members was Lin Bardsley, who in chatting to me afterwards mentioned a place called Talliston House & Gardens in Essex & its owner John Trevillian; her description was of an unusual & magical place, with one space entirely filled with clocks. Lin thought that Rachel's piece & some of the other repertoire might fit well in the house, & offered to put me in touch with John. I jumped at the chance. Originally, I'd assumed by the name that it was some kind of stately pile.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
Talliston House & Gardens is a 25-year labour of love & imagination, & rather than a mansion lolling in a deer park, it is in fact an semi-detached ex-council house in an unassuming estate in Great Dunmow, around a mid point between Stansted Airport & Colchester. The footprint of the house has barely changed from its original incarnation, but John has developed 13 spaces, transforming each room into a creation from a particular time & place, each with its own histories & stories. These metamorphoses are achieved by travelling the world to source real artefacts & materials.
But with Talliston writing & words only take you so far. A quick visit to the website will give you some visual idea - the gorgeous photos (some of which now appear on this site, thanks to John's generosity) give a sense of what you will walk into. A chat with John will add extra information - behind all the transformations & stories is a simple ethos: that anyone should be able to transform their surroundings in however small a way to enrich their lives, & that the Talliston experience can provide the nudge to do this. We all agreed though that, if we were going to create an event that lived up to Talliston's proposal, a visit would be essential.
This turned out to be absolutely correct. Rachel & I popped ourselves on a ferociously early train from Manchester to get down to Essex by lunchtime, where we were met by the fantastic Marcus (who also cooked us a delicious lunch). If this all sounds like gushing hyperbole, this is one of the effects both of Talliston & the way John Trevillian opens up the experience of his (& his faithful team's) creation. One of the most attractive aspects of Talliston (particularly to people who make muti-disciplinary events) is that it is very much a fully immersive experience - as impressive as the decor & the evolved backstories are, John's imagination has also stretched to things like carefully designed layered sound in all rooms, & also specially-matched 3-layer scents for each room, details which make the shift between times/places all the more convincing.
John's generosity & enthusiasm during our visit is borne out by the community of people Talliston attracts, & the variety of people & communities it serves. Each room is enough to get the creative wheels turning, & as a whole Talliston is a gift to our sort of work - a rich environment that leaves enough room for the imagination to play with. Rachel & I came away very excited about what might be next.
& what is next? Once the initial thrill is past, the questions (all exciting ones to have to answer) begin to arrive: what sort of an event could combine musicians (our inestimable collaborators Gemma Bass & Gary Farr of the Vonnegut Ensemble) & a variety of media & thread it through Talliston, creating a new experience whilst respecting the creative forces already at work? How might we move audiences around the spaces most effectively? What impact might John's new novel, which narrativises the Talliston spaces, have on our thinking? & more.
All of this questions will form the topics of future blogs as this project develops over the next year, so watch this space....