Is the Torriano Meeting House one of Kentish Town’s most undervalued spaces? An almost hidden chamber, it opens its doors every Sunday night to poets and listeners of poetry.
This is a place where weekend writing workshops are held, as well as theatrical performances and art exhibitions. And its history goes right back to 1982 when poet John Rety and his partner Susan Johns took over a decrepit house at 99 Torriano Avenue, turning it into a hub of creativity (read the full story in our earlier feature here).
If you’ve never set foot inside, there’s an even stronger reason to visit this summer. An ambitious new exhibition, TEXTUS: in-between text and textile, opens this weekend, bringing together over 30 artists and poets whose work explores the “entangled relationship between text and textile”. It offers visitors new and playful ways into poetry, inviting them to enjoy words in both their tactile and textile form.
Drawing on the identity and history of the Torriano as a meeting house, the non-profit show, run by volunteers, encourages visitors to relax on a comfy sofa or chair, converse and use the provided writing materials to respond to the exhibited works.
“You’re invited to text responses to email@example.com, which may be shared on the Textus Instagram and/or performed at the venue’s regular poetry evenings,” say co-curators Keziah Florin-Sefton and Lottie McCrindell.. “And throughout the exhibition, there’ll also be a number of free artist-led workshops offering further opportunity for deep engagement with the displayed works.”
Why the name? “It’s the Medieval Latin root of ‘text’ and ‘textile’, meaning ‘thing woven’, but also, TEXT US!” Fair enough. Woven conversations, stitched stanzas, wearable magazines and lyrical garments fill the space, from Nina Mingya Powles’s patchwork wall-hanging to Jo Cope’s handcrafted shoe sculptures and Shelly Goldsmith’s poetic clothing labels sewn into reclaimed polyester fabrics (see image, above).
Poems hang in conversation with the artworks, “reflecting on fabric’s importance in our lives in an array of processes,” say Keziah and Lottie, “including the formation of identity, memory, and relationships.”
This is surely a one-off this summer in NW5, so why not make the weekend stroll up to Torriano? And afterwards, you can enjoy a debrief with a pint in the submerged garden at the lovely Rose & Crown.
TEXTUS: in-between text and textile, runs 9th July – 3rd September, Torriano Meeting House, 99 Torriano Ave, London, NW5 2RX. Opening times: weekends, 11am-6pm and by appointment in the week. MAIN IMAGE: Natalie d’Arbeloff, Patterns Endlessly Repeated in the Mind, (2023).