Welcome to Bill’s Attic

Welcome to Bill’s Attic, this website is to explain and explore a place that is no more, in a way that has not before been, for audiences who have not before seen.

BIll’s Attic was once a real place but now it is many spaces:

  • Meditative: A physical recreation of the Attic as a creative space for artists to be inspired
  • Informative: A 3D tour of the original Attic and its cultural connections
  • Evocative: A dome experience made of abstracted digital artefacts
  • Immersive: A VR experience providing the last remaining view of the attic at 1:1 scale

This website will illuminate the unique evolution of an artist’s attic from a private imaginative studio into a provocative play space for any artist in any medium.

Scott Fletcher & Sue Hill 

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“To spend time in such a rich, strange, beautiful space was a profound privilege, and one I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life”

Sarah Crown 
Director of Literature, Arts Council England

Bill Mitchell (1951 - 2017)

Bill”s projects were born in his Attic, a private creation space which housed his extraordinary lifetime’s collection of artefacts: bones, saints, shells, bells, toys, spoons, snow globes, archaeology…the flotsam and jetsam of life, all arranged with idiosyncratic and exquisite care in the attic of his house.

Bill’s early career was in the theatre in education (TIE) movement of the 1970s and it was at this time he met his partner, Sue Hill. In 1988 they moved to Cornwall, where they both joined Kneehigh, Bill becoming Artistic Director and later setting up landscape theatre company, WildWorks. In 2007 they moved into the house that Sue had grown up in. The Attic there became the home for Bill’s growing collection of artefacts and ephemera, the materials that he used to trigger his imagination and creativity. From this collection Bill created shows that dazzled: 100:The Day Our World Changed; A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings; Tristan and Yseult; Wolf’s Child; The Passion.

Bill was diagnosed with cancer in 2015 and died in 2017. He was very concerned that the collection would be a burden for Sue after his death and suggested splitting and selling it. It was his dear friend and protege, Mydd Pharo (now Artistic Director of WildWorks) who recognised the magical power of the collection and suggested it should be opened for artists to use. Bill left the Attic collection as a gift for the artist in everyone. He did not want his collection to be boxed, preserved and hidden, he was delighted that it would continue to inspire and provoke, to be accessible, mutable and relevant.

There are now two new physical homes for the collection, at the Archive at Falmouth University and in the Old Schoolhouse at Krowji, Redruth.

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“I work with tea sets and sunsets”

Bill Mitchell 
2005

About the Attic

In the converted Old Schoolhouse at Krowji is the beautiful ‘creation and contemplation’ space containing thousands of artefacts from Bill’s collection.

It has been designed by Ellie Williams to hold the spirit with which Bill collected and worked, enabling ideas to take wing, dreams to be mined, mistakes to be made and the world to be seen differently, a space to be a creative forge for artists of all disciplines, backgrounds and nationalities.

  • Any artist or arts team can apply for time in Bill’s Attic
  • Explore, play with and repurpose the artefacts.
  • Make new work in response.
  • Share that work in the Bill’s Attic Archive Experience.

There is a large, flexible workspace / meeting room to be used by artists in residence and also hired out at other times for meetings. There is a kitchen for shared meals, conversations and brainwaves. Bill’s Attic is a self-contained space. Enter, leave the world outside, find new worlds inside.

The unique offer of Bill’s Attic is the collection itself and artists’ ability to freely engage with it. Artists using the space for residencies of lengths varying from one day to a month, can use all the objects in the collection for inspiration. Some objects can be used for temporary inclusion in artists’ own work/installations, with the understanding that objects will be returned to the shelves subsequently.

Some objects have generously been made available for artists to incorporate into the work they are making in the Attic, and these objects from the collection can remain in their new incarnation. The space is colour coded/laid out to signal how different objects can be used.

Everything about Bill’s Attic has been conceived in a spirit of generosity. We want you to get the most you can from a great space. In return we want your feedback about what the residency in the Attic has meant to you, and some written or photographic record of the work made that can be included as part of the Bill’s Attic Experiential Archive.

To enquire about spending time in Bill’s Attic at the Krowji please email us on info@billsattic.org and we will send you further information about availability and charges.

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“An incredibly healing place, a place where those who’ve lost the power of dreaming, imagining or expressing themselves can get a fix and feel the shoots of play and belonging start to break through hardened ground.”

Tim Smit
KBE, Founder Eden Project

About the digital resource

An online interactive archive facilitating exploration of the collection of created and curated objects; from the mind and motivations of Bill Mitchell and other leading cultural conspirators.

While the collection will live on and grow, the uniqueness and power of its first home, the original Attic could not. It was essential to record the relationship the objects had with each other and their home, before this symbiosis was lost forever.

Prior to the collection moving we undertook a comprehensive digital documentation of the space and objects using cutting-edge volumetric visual and ambisonic audio recording techniques.

The digital collection exists as a vast array of versatile high-quality assets; mostly raw file, some development and a few public ready – all free and available on request.

From this same suite we have created the online 3D tour, immersive dome and VR experiences. The VR experience is free to download from the Oculus Store from August, the Dome experience can be viewed at the Market Hall, Plymouth and the 3D Tour is accessed on this website.

The overarching premise of this archival triptych is that of a transcendent scale; the representation of one space from multiple imagined perspectives: with VR as 1:1, Online as God’s eye view and Dome as bug’s eye view.

The virtual reality experience has already received high acclaim for its arresting beauty with representatives of Arts Council England citing it as an incredibly affecting and influential VR execution.

The dome experience is truly experimental, using the Real Ideas Organisation’s immersive dome at the Market Hall, Plymouth. Over the ten minute piece, audiences are enveloped in an ethereal and hallowed visual representation of the Attic, emphasised by sounds recorded in the original Attic, layered over the echoes of excerpts from interviews with Bill.
The Dome experience was launched in July and is available throughout 2022. Click here to book a viewing.

The online 3D tour experience is delivered through Sketchfab’s Cultural Heritage Partnership and so Bill’s Attic joins a growing list of forward thinking cultural venues who are embracing the opportunity of engaging with audiences online: to book-end a physical visit or, in some cases, replace it.

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“There are… experiences that stick in the mind and become forever part of your make up. Our visit to Bill’s Attic is a memory that will continue to reverberate for years to come.”

Nick Serota
Chair Arts Council England

About the archive

A lasting record of a unique space of unending curiosity and inspiration.

 

While the vast majority of the Bill’s Attic Collection was moved to Krowji, some (mostly print and 2D works) are being analysed and catalogued at Falmouth University Archives & Special Collections Dept. From here the collection can educate new archivists, historians, writers, artists and through pre-booking, the general public as well.

We have worked closely with the Archives & Special Collections Dept to ensure there maintains a critical underpinning to the new approach we are taking to how archives are preserved and presented.

The Falmouth Collection contains scripts, photographs, promotional materials and press cuttings for many of the shows on which Bill worked throughout his career. This is an invaluable resource for those interested in theatre design or the work of Kneehigh and WildWorks or for those just wanting to know more about the creative processes and work of this talented artist, designer and theatre pioneer.

The Archive will also hold a large number of Bill’s scrapbooks, containing drawings, plans, source materials and Bill’s own collage works. These will eventually be digitised and made available online.

Materials from the collection are available to view by appointment with Archive & Special Collections Dept on Level 0, the Exchange. Please email archives@fxplus.ac.uk to find out more about accessing this and many other collections.

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“Those scrapbooks of colours, made just for himself, gave me more of an insight into what it is to live as an artist than anything I have ever seen.”

Rose Barnecut
Director, Feast Cornwall

Take the tour

Just as with most archive content, it is an unavoidable fact that the collection housed physically at Krowji cannot be accessed by everyone. This limitation gave increased importance to developing a digital archive, however it soon evolved beyond this rationale to become a resource of its own resonance and value.

The online 3D archive of Bill’s Attic gives visitors a tour that makes exhibits of specific objects with direct cultural resonance, the artworks they inspired and the artists that created them.

Artists who make work in response to the Attic have been invited to submit files for inclusion in the online experience. Click on a highlighted object and an artwork associated with it will launch. Here you will find film, poetry, music, manga, zine art, installation, costume, writing, performance…

Join

This website is a representation of a growing community. This is an archive that will grow, will breathe and will change, but to do so it must be fed from the collaboration of artists and audiences. Anyone can be any one of these and we invite you to join in.

There are newsletters coming soon, please sign up if you’d like to be part of the continuing conversation…

Email info@billsattic.org to stay in touch

Join us. Become us. Define us.

Partners

A project made possible through the love, responsibility and talent of the following great folk.

Sue Hill has been the driving force behind all that is Bill’s Attic, to honour and remember her beloved Bill.

Sue commissioned Steve Tanner and Ian Kingsnorth to make a complete photographic catalogue of Bill’s collection, both in the original Attic in Bill and Sue’s house and box by box in the new Attic at Krowji. It is the most complete and thorough record of the collection.

At Sue’s invitation the digital project was conceived and led by Scott Fletcher, a specialist in the delicate combination of digital techniques with traditional artforms – as exemplified at scottboxx.com He commissioned the digital team – photogrammetrist Steve Flanagan and audio expert Ciaran Clarke to record the Attic as Bill had left it, and then Benjamin Walbrook to take their assets and create the initial VR and 360 content.

Creative Kernow oversees FEAST and FEAST oversees the new Attic at Krowji. Fiona Wotton, Rose Barnecut, Jack Morrison, Taryn Harris and Karen Mac all must take credit for their fantastic support. It is under FEAST that the collection will continue to grow – as new artists visit and respond to the physical and virtual collections.

Falmouth University Archives & Special Collections Dept are assisting in the professional cataloguing of elements from the collection. They have worked directly with Sue from the outset and will be using the resulting contents to engage students and researchers.

Real Ideas Organisation operates the Market Hall which houses the UK’s leading immersive dome. Their team have supported Bill’s Attic throughout with technical assistance, event management and ensuring the dome experience continues to engage audiences well into 2023.

Zubr are experts in the creative development of technically advanced projects and have been previously commissioned by Scott on more than one occasion. For this project they worked with him to develop both the dome and virtual reality experiences.

Founded by Bill, the work of Wildworks Theatre constitutes a large part of the cultural connections on display in the online tour. Thanks especially to the artist associates of Wildworks and their myriad skills and creations represented in the Digital Attic..

Tom Watts and Matt Wilson developed and designed the online experience respectively, They have seamlessly combined an advanced use of web technology with an even more advanced use of Sketchfab. Tom has overseen all server side provisions and Matt has worked with Scott on the posters and marketing content, released by Cornish marketing expert Vicky Sutcliffe.

Sketchfab were early partners in the project and have provided support for the project to apply new ways of using their interfaces and placed Bill’s Attic within their Cultural Heritage Partnership.

Many thanks to everyone who supported the funding of the Attic projects, through the JustGiving campaign, the Auction of Promises at the Redruth Drapery (Stephen Childs, Rachael Mia Allen and all those who donated brilliant auction lots – lambing, piano-tuning, unique Attic fragrance…) and of course the Arts Council England.

And finally thank you to the group of people and their organisations for steering the development of Bill’s Attics, analogue and digital – Amanda Harris and Anna Murphy of The Writers Block, Sarah Jane, Chris Morris and Terrie Fender of Falmouth University, Ross Williams of Creative Kernow, Charlie Bunker, Mercedes Kemp and Emma Hogg of WildWorks, Rose Barnecut and Jack Morrison of FEAST.

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