Exhibition Spotlight: Whitehall in Words

Fri 3/Mar/23

Exhibition Spotlight: Whitehall in Words


Whitehall in Words is the result of collaborative work between Sutton Council's Cultural Services and the inspiring women of Sutton Women’s Network Creative Writers group. This exhibition features original poetry, prose, artworks and personal photographs bringing together life experiences within and beyond the borough, and Whitehall Historic House.


In this blog we talk to Sutton Women's Network about who they are and what inspired their 'Whitehall in Words' Exhibition at Whitehall Historic House.


See Whitehall in Words every Thursday to Saturday 10am - 5pm, until 11 September 2021.


Who are Sutton Women's Network?

We are a group of welcoming, supportive, diverse Sutton women exploring creativity, networking, and having fun as we experiment with all forms of writing. Diverse women from all backgrounds and ages represent a rich cultural mix that makes the group dynamic, bringing understanding and knowledge from various parts of the globe - Kenya, India, Zimbabwe, Malaysia, to name a few. Several members have lived in Sutton all their lives and are able to provide fascinating details about Sutton’s history.


The group evolved from an International Women’s day event organised by Community Action Sutton. Many of us had long-held desires to write our life stories, and the group was established to support this and other creative and professional aims.


Each one of us has been able to share experiences through our writing and have found many similarities in our lives as residents of the London Borough of Sutton. We have grown in confidence as writers under the guidance of author, Jacqueline Crooks. We kept meeting digitally throughout the Covid-19 lockdowns, when the group provided an important supportive and sustaining connection.


Sutton Council's Cultural Services - Whitehall in Words Exhibition - A white room inside Whitehall Historic House containing some exhibits 


What inspired the Whitehall in Words exhibition?

The exhibition is part of the wider NLHF project Know our Place: Saving and Sharing Whitehall’. We met with Sutton Council’s Cultural Services team following one of our live reading events last October; we wanted to write about our lives in Sutton, and in particular how we each connect to Whitehall - one of the borough’s oldest buildings. The resulting exhibition explores the connection between past and present through writings and art, amplifying the voices of ordinary women who have lived extraordinary lives. What was most important to us was creating a cohesive body of work that represents Sutton’s diversity, and how we can connect through creatively thinking about spaces such as Whitehall.


Sutton Council's Cultural Services - Whitehall in Words Exhibition - a glass case containing an illustration of Whitehall Historic House


What can people expect from the exhibition?

Whitehall is a Tudor building and as you step over the threshold you are immediately transported back to Shakespearean times. The winding wooden staircase takes you up to the first floor where you’ll find the exhibition.


On the walls and in display cases are works of art, pieces of writing and poetry, rich with imagery that enable you to imagine the lives of the writers. This exhibition takes you around the world, onto the parklands of Sutton and into Whitehall itself. It is writing as a journey and exploration, as the writers connect their long-ago pasts, comparing and contrasting childhood homes from places like a white house in Burnt Savannah, Jamaica, made from local trees. The exhibition maps the rich cultural heritage of women from Sutton on the walls of historic Whitehall.




Have you got any exhibition highlights? 

Barbara Watts’ poem is a highlight of the exhibition. Barbara, who sadly passed away, was one of the original members of the group and played a key role in promoting the group to other women. Her poem imagines Whitehall as a character speaking from the past. A house embodying Sutton’s past in delicate and fine detail.


Sutton Council's Cultural Services - Whitehall in Words Exhibition - a wall-mounted poem entitled Whitehall and a photo of Barbara Watts  


Accessibility has been a key feature of the wider Whitehall project, including the addition of a new lift. As pointed out by Councillor Nali Patel, a member of the group, this has had a great impact on the exhibition, which is fully accessible.


Finally, there is a children’s activity that stimulates young minds and provides an opportunity to display their own artwork.




Exhibits like this have been made possible thanks to the support of the National Lottery Hertiage Fund (NLHF). Find out more about Whitehall Historic House and about other exhibitions and events taking place at Whitehall Historic House, Honeywood Museum & also in Sutton's Libraries.


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