Festival of sleep evokes Dido Belle's 'fantasy bedroom'
- Credit: Hayley Madden
The reading room at the Museum of the Home has been transformed into the "fantasy bedroom" of 18th Century Kenwood House resident Dido Belle.
The installation is part of the Hackney landmark's Festival of Sleep, which explores how our understanding and experience of slumber has changed over four centuries. Kicking off last week with a pyjama party, the festival includes restyling the galleries to explore remedies, potions, folklore, myths and magic associated with sleep.
Rooms include a wife's two-year mourning period in the Victorian parlour, the makeshift bedroom of an injured soldier returned from the front in the 1915 drawing room; the occupant of the 1937 flat nursing a hangover after celebrating the coronation of George VI, and the morning after a gay bar hopping night in the 1998 loft apartment.
Riffing on a Kanye West song, My Beautiful Georgian Twisted Fantasy was created by home decor and lifestyle specialists The Cornrow to imagine the "bedroom of dreams" of Belle, the daughter of an enslaved woman and British naval captain. She was brought up as a family member in her uncle's Hampstead mansion - a companion to her cousin Elizabeth and assistant to Lord Mansfield.
Cornrow co-founder Lara Senbanjo said the shoppable installation was a "mash up of modern and traditional influences" including a Yoruba chair showcasing West Africa's skilled craftspeople, and brands such as Pooky, Wedgewood, Neptune, Sheila Bridges, and Micaela Sharpe.
"Dido was the mixed-race daughter of a naval officer and an enslaved woman who was brought as a child to Kenwood House to be looked after by her Uncle Lord Mansfield - a completely unprecedented occurrence in history," she said.
"Our installation re-imagines the room as if Dido had complete agency as a mixed-race woman, to express what’s best in her African, Caribbean and British Heritage and creating thought-provoking design intersections between all three."
The museum, formerly named the Geffrye Museum, has been at the centre of controversy over its decision to retain a statue of Sir Robert Geffrye, who invested in the 17th century slave trade.
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Other installations in the festival highlight chronic pain, hidden abuse, and the defensive architecture of urban spaces designed to make it hard for the homeless to rest. Performances, workshops debates and activities include a workshop learning how to decode dreams with a dream reader, creating a sleepy pillow balm, sleep recovery with a yogi, and sleep experts on improving wellbeing by adapting how we slumber.
Max Richter's eight hour nocturnal-inspired composition Sleep will be played as an antidote to the overstimulation of modern life, and Hammocks and sun loungers in the gardens invite visitors to switch off all distractions and allow themselves to rest.
The Festival of Sleep runs until September 2022 at 136 Kingsland Road, E2 and will raise money and awareness of the London Homeless Collective. Visit www.sleep.museumofthehome.org.uk/