Winchester, Hampshire. Ye olde capital city of the United Kingdom. Home to the world’s longest Medieval cathedral. Childhood city of Frank Turner and Colin Firth, and the resting place of Jane Austen. It also happens to be where I call home.
Home, for me, begins in my flat. It’s a light dappled sun trap in the heart of the city, surrounded by main roads and rivers.
It’s filled to the brim with musical instruments, books, mementos, and sheets of paper. Graduate certificates and movie posters line the walls, and and every room looks lived in and loved.
To me, my little flat is more than where I live. It’s a meeting place for friends, it’s a library, it’s a recording studio. It’s where I feel safe and at most myself.
I didn’t grow up in Winchester. I was born and bred in South Wales to Welsh parents, and had a very Welsh upbringing; folk music lessons, a Welsh GCSE, celebrating the Eisteddfod. I came to Winchester to study a Bachelors degree that spoke to me, and I ended up falling in love with the city.
Winchester High Street is only five minutes away from my flat, and always makes for an interesting walk to work. Some days, the streets are lined with farmers markets, or art stalls. Some days, it’s full of crowds and performers for the yearly arts festival called the Hat Fair. On sunny days, the city centre is full of buskers. I spent many years being one of those buskers, performing with friends and societies under the watchful eye of the Buttercross. They say if you take a seat on the Buttercross, you’ll always call Winchester your home.
Winchester is a city renown for it’s music scene and arts festivals, but it is also a city full of hidden, artistic secrets. My favourite city secret comes in the form of bollards, however odd that may seem.
Dotted throughout the city, there are numerous bollards, all painted to reflect a famous piece of art. The one above is inspired by David Hockney’s ‘A Bigger Splash’. The bollards in the pictures below are inspired by one of Kandinsky’s compositions, and by the most famous smirking lady in all of history.
These select painted bollards appear in the lead up to one of Winchester’s largest tourist attractions; Winchester Cathedral.
This building has played a surprisingly large part of my life here. Before I moved to Winchester, I used to look at pictures of the Cathedral and admire it, imagine picnics on it’s lawns. I knew I wouldn’t attend services there as I was not a part of the Church of England. I wouldn’t pay too much focus to it in my studies as I studied Drama and English Literature, not History.
However, I soon discovered that Winchester Cathedral is truly a hub of action. In Autumn, the cathedral is taken over by students, lecturers, and parents for Graduation ceremonies. In the Winter, wooden huts and ice-skating rinks surround it for the famous Winchester Christmas Market. In Spring, people lie on the lawns, studying, eating, daydreaming. In Summer, it becomes one of the key arenas and performance points at the Hat Fair.
Winchester Cathedral is also an example of the city itself; a wondrous balance between nature and architecture. Here stands this beautiful monster of stone and glass, but it is surrounded and complemented by lush grass, blooming trees, and bright flowers.
When you use the term ‘city’, it tends to evoke images of skyscrapers, grey buildings, and tailbacks. Winchester, a true city in terms of people, businesses, university, and geography, strays from that.
Admittedly, every place has it’s grey areas, as does Winchester. But for every unassuming city block, there are two more historical or beautiful buildings. (Although, I will admit, the one way system does play havoc for drivers).
To me, Winchester has a perfect balance between nature and nurture. One of my favourite places to walk, and is in the last few minutes of my walk to work, is the Peninsula Barracks. The barracks are made up of large, military grade red brick buildings, and used to house soldiers and brigades in the 20th century. Now, it is home to military museums and luxurious apartments.
Walking through the Barracks, you get a true sense of the balance. The buildings are enormous and imposing, but are shaded by green trees, and encompassed with rings of soft grass and bright flowers. Tinkling water from the centre fountains plays, as do the bells from the old Barracks church.
From walking through the High Street, the Cathedral grounds, and the Barracks, I arrive, twenty five minutes later, at the graveyard.
Although now unused, it is kept in perfect condition. Fresh flowers are placed in abundance here, for family members, friends, for soldiers lost in the First and Second World Wars. It is the beautiful walkway between the Barracks and the University of Winchester, where I graduated from in 2017, and where I now work.
Although I originally fell in love with a course Winchester offered, what solidified my choice in attending Winchester was the campus.
It had that beautiful balance between nature and humanity, managed to seem both busy and quiet at the same time. I could see it was well looked after, but the student spirit was also allowed to flourish. It’s safe to say, I still feel the same.
Five days a week, I occupy a office on King Alfred Quarter, working as a Programme Administrator. Once the work day is done, I don’t tend to leave campus. I can be found at the place I spent most of my undergraduate years – the Performing Arts Studios.
This is the place where I had my first lecture, where I met my closest friends, where I directed my first show, where I sang and laughed and moved. I have fond memories of rehearsing for open air shows and musicals and assessments within these walls. As a graduate, and soon to be post-graduate student, I am making new memories here.
These are the rooms where my company, StormCloud Arts & Theatre, took its first steps. These are the studios where we held auditions and met prospective collaborators. This is a safe space where I can create work with my partner, plan the future of the company, and play around with music. These rooms are where opportunities are made for us, and for others.
It’s not just the buildings and surroundings that make Winchester my home. I truly believe in the quote ‘home is where the heart is’. To me, home is subjective. Home is back in South Wales with my family. Home is where my friends are spread across the world. Home is where my memories are. Winchester is where I rest my head, it’s where I work, it’s where I found love and I socialise and create. So, Winchester is also my home. And what a beautiful home it is too.