Hermione Lee and Kate Kennedy at the Charleston Literary FestivalLives of Houses

Do we shape the buildings we live in? Or are we the ones formed by the places we call home? What can a house tell us about the people who have lived there?

Writers and biographers Kate Kennedy and Hermione Lee are joined by Bloomsbury historian Simon Watney to discuss what houses mean to us and how we use them to connect with and think about the past.

Hermione Lee is a non-fiction writer and retired English Literature professor. She taught at the Universities of Liverpool, York and Oxford, where she held the Goldsmiths’ Chair in English (1998–2008). Her work includes biographies of Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton and Penelope Fitzgerald. Her most recent book ‘Lives of Houses’, co-edited by Kate Kennedy, celebrates our fascination with the houses of famous literary figures, artists, composers and politicians of the past. In 2013 she was made a Dame for services to literature.

Kate Kennedy is a biographer and broadcaster, a Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, and Associate Director of the Oxford Centre for Life-writing. She has published widely on 20th century music and literature, is a regular presenter on history and culture for the BBC, and the author of ‘Dweller in Shadows: A life of Ivor Gurney’ (2021). She is the co-editor with Hermione Lee of ‘Lives of Houses’ (2020), editor of ‘Literary Britten’ (2018), and co-editor of ‘The Silent Morning: Culture and Memory after the Armistice 1918’ (2016).

Simon Watney was a student of Quentin Bell at the University of Sussex, and has an M.A. from the Courtauld Institute. Amongst other subjects, he has written books about Duncan Grant, Sussex churches, and Bloomsbury homes outside London. Previously a trustee of The Charleston Trust, he is currently a member of the Advisory Committee concerned with the future of Prospect Cottage, Derek Jarman’s former home at Dungeness. He lives in Deal, in Kent.