Sally Kindberg and the importance of green spaces (part two)

Not far from where I live is a nature reserve.  Its meadow, currently full of wild sweet peas and wild geraniums, is a delight. There’s a beetle hotel there too, built by High Speed Rail in return for … access to adjacent woodland?

Adelaide Nature Reserve lies on the site of what were once hay meadows, supplying food for London’s horses. It slopes down to railways tracks leading to and from London’s Euston station. When, as an art student many years ago, I travelled by train (unless I hitched a lift) from my art college in Wolverhampton, with a tiny suitcase and a folder of ideas and drawings to tout around, I would have seen the greenery above the tracks as the train approached Euston. Or maybe I was too excited to notice it. I was en route to meet up with the man who later became my husband, and to keep appointments with a magazine or book editor or two whilst in London.  As the train emerged from the tunnel, there was a definite feeling of travelling through a portal into new adventures.

Trains pass through the Primrose Hill tunnels and its archways, engineered by George Stephenson and Sons, designed by William Budden, can be glimpsed through fencing and foliage from King Henry’s Road above one side of the tracks, an elegant and mysterious looking structure which, when the first one was built in 1837, attracted many sightseers.

Near the Adelaide Nature Reserve, behind an attractive wall (due to be pulled down), its bricks arranged in a Flemish Bond pattern, is another nature reserve, owned by Network Rail and soon to be destroyed and earmarked for the site of a huge High Speed Rail ventilation shaft.

 The woodland, classified as ‘shrubland’ by HS2, includes mature ash and oak trees. Sadly, some of the trees have already been chopped down without any consultation.

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Sally Kindberg and the importance of green spaces

The first place I visited when I was well enough after having the Corona virus was the Adelaide Community Garden, where I have a tiny square (3′ x 3′) of herbs – rosemary, Moroccan mint, thyme and hyssop, all planted with bees in mind as well as for their scent and taste. Here it is in March …

A couple of kind fellow allotmenteers  watered the square when I was in isolation for two months, so it’s now dancing in greenery …

On those first visits, still wonky from being ill,  I feebly but happily sat and stared at the flowering and burgeoning on other more ambitious plots, watched a pair of blue tits feeding their young and listened to the hum of bees, and birds celebrating the sunny weather in joyful arias. There are robins, blackbirds and goldfinches here as well. Bliss!  And once again I realised the importance of green spaces, how they are essential for humans’ wellbeing, how even looking after a small square of garden or a few pot plants can be an act of optimism in these weird and challenging times.

I’m lucky enough to have a tiny back yard, which despite facing north east, gets enough early morning sun to encourage a camellia, a rose bush and a bay tree as well as assorted ferns.  Nearby, beyond a thirty foot wall, are the main railway lines in and out of Euston, whose rumbles I can sometimes hear at night.  Occasionally the vibrations from passing trains activate clockwork robots and other toys on the shelf above my work desk, a friendly sound of gentle whirring and clanking. The robot on the right was bought from a stall in Bridport Market, was made in Japan in the 1960s.  She has a sparking tummy.  Sometimes.

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Sally Kindberg’s work in progress Unfinished Business

How do we make sense of the world when those we trust the most make us doubt what we experience ?  May contain levitation.  And fish.

An unreliable memoir in comic strip form, about family secrets, shifting borders and questions of identity.

More to follow …





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Sally Kindberg’s audio piece for the Royal Literary Fund


‘How I write’ is a recent audio piece for the Royal Literary Fund’s Vox series, talking about the importance of keeping notebooks

Making visual or written notes is an essential part of my work practice. These days overhearing interesting snippets of conversations is a bit more of a challenge though … Here are some pages from my 2020 notebooks, pre C-19.














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Sally Kindberg at Chillingham Castle in 2017

In 2017,  whilst staying in the north east of England, I visited Chillingham Castle, and whilst exploring, discovered its torture chamber below the tearooms.  Much of the castle is crowded with historical memorabilia, looking like it might have been acquired in job lots.  The recent Dominic Cummings affair reminded me of my visit, as Chillingham is the home of his father-in-law Sir Humphry Wakefield, whose daughter is Cummings’s wife Mary Wakefield, a Spectator editor. Mary Wakefield’s version of the couple’s Corona virus quarantine is currently being questioned. Chillingham is not to be confused with Barnard Castle by the way, linked to Cummings’s now infamous drive there ‘to test his eyesight’.

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Sally Kindberg’s Corona Diary’s Krakow website appearance

In 2018 I visited a fantastic comics exhibition in Krakow and have just learned that Artur Wabik, one of the curators I met there, has written about my recent Corona Diary , along with work by Jeroen Funke, Simon Hanselmann, Tom Gauld, and various Polish artists, on Krakow’s Miasto Literatury website

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Sally Kindberg’s visit to the House of Automata in 2019

Every thursday this month the House of Automata has taken us on fascinating virtual tours of their amazing world, but last year in 2019 the House of Automata was kind enough to let me visit their extraordinary headquarters in Scotland …

Through a metal gate and a little courtyard in Forres town centre is a workshop of disconcerting delights. A horse-headed human figure, frozen in mid-greeting, waits to welcome visitors. Boxes of exquisite body parts of bisque or papier mache are stacked on shelves. This is where nineteenth century (and later) automata wait patiently to be re-animated.  Here their delicate mechanisms are re-tuned, and their limbs gently replaced. Flywheels are adjusted, clockwork is re-wound with the appropriate key chosen from an assortment of hundreds.

Tiny songbirds are re-feathered, their miniature bellows repaired with ‘zephyr’skin so they can rise up out of their ornate boxes and trill nineteenth century birdsong once again. This is the workshop of the House of Automata aka Michael and Maria Start.  “We have our favourites,” says Maria, taking a four legged but headless creature out of a cardboard box, and winding it up. It creeps slowly across the table on papier mache paws. “Martin Scorsese wanted our leopard, he was making the film ‘Hugo’ at the time,” Michael explains, “but we didn’t want to part with it, so we lent it to him so the mechanism could be copied.”

Michael modestly doesn’t mention that he was official automata advisor on that film as well as others. The House of Automata‘s wide range of clients include fashion designer Lulu Guinness, who had an idea for a mechanical songbird handbag.  Maria tells me she enjoys the process of restoring the plumage of these tiny birds, meticulously replacing and matching each feather by dyeing it with Dylon.  “It’s very labour intensive, but soothing work,” she tells me.

While I’m there I’m introduced to music hall entertainer Little Tich, waiting for his replacement wig and new leather eyelids, a white rabbit about to pop up out of a silken cabbage, a Man in the Moon that once belonged to Roger Daltrey of The Who …and then there are cabinets bursting with ventriloquists’companions, and a flea circus …

I asked the Starts why they find automata so fascinating.  “They never grow old,”explained Michael, “If something wears out, we replace it.”

May 28th 2020, Instagram post from @thehouseofautomata: that is such a wonderful review, thank you so much.  You are always welcome at the House of Automata xxx

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Sally Kindberg’s 101 Activities

Some years ago I worked on a book idea, 101 Activities, which was almost picked up by a small independent publisher in the US, but it went bust I think, and I forgot all about the drawings after getting involved in many other commissioned projects at that time.

Whilst looking for something else recently, I found the drawings again, and thought they were quite a propos  recent events and the experience of being in isolation.

Some of my original text:

When mundane activities are isolated, in both a formal and temporal sense, they may become mysterious.  The activity and/or the importance of the objects involved is exaggerated and meaning is questioned.

How many times does an action have to be repeated before it is seen as excessive? Does its function become obsolete? How many everyday activities are manifestations of an obsession? Are they necessary to reassure us that we have some control over our lives? How important is our own commitment to everyday rituals?



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Sally Kindberg – isolation, seaside longings and playing with handwriting

Dreaming of being able to go on day trips again to the coast and walk the salt marshes, or of long but pleasurable train journeys to the south west (where I was born).  Still in isolation after more than six weeks but Corona symptoms less frequent if still horribly unpredictable. Fingers crossed it will soon be gone. Meanwhile if the sun’s out I can sit in the front yard and listen to the drain’s whooshing water down to the Thames and out to sea. Enjoyed playing with handwriting and my new Winsor & Newton brush pen, making seaside longings on a bit of wrapping paper …

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Sally Kindberg, isolation and twitching

Still in isolation, and still have daily and unwelcome visits from Mr Corona, but this morning enjoyed a bit of bird spotting in the tiny fernery of my back yard, between bouts of fever and headaches.

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