Artist’s Statement: In their own words…Julie McCarthy and Jai Redman of Ultimate Holding Company talk about their novel, van and glider project at Tatton Park Biennial 2012
JM: “We just sort of started off and Barbara Cartland sung to us when we thought about a piece for Tatton. And there’s a collision of different narratives with Barbara Cartland’s life and all of her hidden talents, like designing gliders. She came up with the original concept of a tow glider. She was even awarded some medal for aviation. It’s all a bit murky as to what her involvement actually was.”
JR: “She founded the first ever gypsy traveller camp called Barbaraville.”
JM: “It still exists. And she campaigned for midwife rights. She’s a real feminist icon in a lot of ways. Yet her books are completely the opposite. So we’ve played with that in our book as well.”
JR: “We’ve sort of taken her politics and stripped away all of that side of the romance and given her the edge in the story of her life which we thought she should have had basically we’re rewritten her as a bit of a feminist heroine.”
JM: “The thing about Barbara’s life is the way it’s recorded. It’s all sort of anecdotal. But she was very politically active she basically ran the campaign for her brother to get elected as an MP. She had an influence on conservative politics and policy.
She was a friend of the Tatton MPs of the early 90s, Neil Hamilton married to Christine. And it is said that she came up with the concept of Back to Basics, which she called Back to Romance, and John Major took it back to his cabinet and they changed it to Back to Basics, which didn’t really work out for him.
So we’ve mixed that with the history of Tatton and flight and Lord Egerton of Tatton. He was a friend of the Hamiltons as well. They were in the same group.”
JR: “The book’s all a bit mixed up really. Although it says it’s the Second World War and mentions real places, it jumps around quite a lot and different characters are married to people they wouldn’t be married to. Then there’s two narratives going on at the same time because there’s a whole other story in Colditz.”
JM: “The glider is half scale exact replica of the Colditz Cock, which is the glider built by actual prisoners of war in Colditz. We don’t know whether it was actually ever intended to be used or if it was a morale building exercise.
They built this glider behind a false wall. It was twice as big as this and the plan was to launch it off the building. But the weight was the same as a bathtub filled with concrete.”
JR: “We tried to get in the van to write but it’s a bit pokey. The original intention was to try and write the book in there but my desire to get the smallest van on the market put a stop to that
I just like japanse micro vans and wanted to get one in a piece of work. In the book there’s an escape vehicle which is unspecified. But we always imagined this to be Barabara the heroine’s escape vehicle. Inside it’s dressed like a museum recreation of what might have been Barabara’s secret study in the back of the van.
So it’s a World War II themed Anderson shelter style mixed with a Cartland boudoir and a library. And all the objects inside it relate somehow to her life. So there are pictures of her mother on the sideboard and obviously her books are on the shelves. It’s kind of like a museum recreation of what her study might have been like had she been this WW2 secret agent.”
JM: “Am I a fan? As a lifelong feminist I would have said before absolutely not, but I now have an absolute respect for the woman. I might not like her work, though it’s quite good fun.
She was an incredibly intelligent woman, out of her time in lots of different ways. She seemed to be in the wrong place and the wrong century. What she should have done is be the Jane Austen of her time. So we really have a big respect for her life, rather than her work.”
- The Cartland Insitute for Romance Research can be seen at Tatton Park Biennial until September 30 2012. Admission £10 (£5). Open 1pm-5pm Tuesday to Sunday.