575 STORIES

575 Stories is a free storytelling programme for local women.

Over the course of 10 weeks, 10 women came together to tell, create and share stories in the exquisite surroundings of National Trust property, 575 Wandsworth Road. Home of Kenyan author, Khadambi Asalache, 575 Wandsworth Road is a beautiful work of interior design. Every surface is covered in intricate wooden carvings, put in place by Khadambi as a means of covering up recurring damp issues.

Led by pioneering storyteller Sally Pomme Clayton, participants found inspiration in the rooms, objects and design of the house, using them as a starting point for sharing their own memories, experiences and cultures. Stories of home and beyond: stories of kitchens; recipes and remedies; tales passed on from grandparents; stories of travel; songs and worship; memories and dreams. The project aims to encourage creativity, imagination and integration.

The house brought out a vast number of brilliant stories from the group, which were retold and developed throughout the programme. Some of these brilliant stories are documented below for you to enjoy, captured from a celebratory story sharing that completed the project.

You can find out more information about the property here: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/575-wandsworth-road

THE SNAKE

“One day, when I was back home and was in year 7 or year 8 my grandma told me not to go outside at one time. She would teach us the rules, she would say this time is not a time to be outside. One day our school was closed and we had broken up early. It’s like 12:00 or 12:15, and a few friends and I are walking. The day was so sunny and a snake was lying down on the grass. I didn’t see it but it touched me and then it ran off. I thought I was finished. I started crying and came home and told my grandma fast. The snake was a cobra. Back home there’s a belief that if you touch a snake it will come back and bite you, where you are it doesn’t matter, it is going to come and bite you.

So my grandma said ‘don’t worry, I will help you’. She got a stick and measured me, and put the stick on the back door. She then measured an equal amount of salt at each corner of the door. Back home we think that if the snake wants to come into the house, first he will need to count every grain of salt. The stick covers the space under the door, and then the snake will have to count the grains of salt and won’t be able to get in.

All night I didn’t sleep. I was so scared. I thought I was finished. In the morning the snake didn’t come and I’m still alive! My grandma is amazing.”

THE LION

“My great grand-father, when he was 15 years old, looked after the families’ 80 camels in a forest far away from where the family lived. He was the only son of the family.

Typically, the people who look after animals such as camels carry a knife around their waist in a big belt, in case they need to defend themselves, because sometimes the animals they attack them. One day my great grand-father was walking and he came across a lion. He got his knife ready because he thought it might eat the camels or try to attack him. The lion though, had a thorn in one of his legs, he was holding one of his legs up, waving. My great grandfather understood, but said no to the lion because he didn’t believe he was hurt. The lion then wrote three lines in the sand, signalling that he was not going to eat him. My great grandfather again said he wouldn’t believe him. And once again the lion wrote three lines in the sand.

My great grandfather sat down in the sand and took the thorn out of the lion’s leg. The lion gave a big hug to my great grandfather. My grandfather was thinking that maybe this was the last day of his life but the lion gave him another hug. Then he gave him a hand shake and he knew they would be friends.”

THE WEDDING ANNIVERSARY

“When I was living in Canada it was my parents 25th wedding anniversary. We planned a surprised party without my mum knowing. I had to sneak the keyboard out from the basement and into my dad’s car. We drove off to my Aunt’s house and I had a bag and I said ‘See you tomorrow mum, enjoy your dinner.’ So we went to my Aunt’s house where we were preparing for the party. My mum had no idea, she was totally clueless and my dad said ‘ok lets go, we need to go visit my sister for a second. And my mum said ‘ok!’ thinking nothing of it. And they came and we all shouted surprise, and there were about 60 people there. My mum started crying, she couldn’t believe that we pulled it off. I got her a white dress so they could pretend they were getting married again. We had someone playing the keyboard, we had my dad’s best friend pretending to be the priest and also a flower girl. We had lots of food, because they’re Spanish and they love food. We even had lobsters who actually fell out of the box and started running around before we caught them to put them into a pot to cook them.

As an anniversary gift we got them a getaway to a hot spring. The following day they packed their bags. And I said ‘don’t worry, don’t worry I will put the bags in the car.’ And at the same time I put a big sign on the bumper of the car saying ‘25th wedding anniversary’ with lots of strings dangling down. They got on the car and they were driving off on the motorway, and lots of drivers are honking at them. They are wondering what was wrong with the car and they stopped and realised what we had done to the car. They were so embarrassed.

I now treasure my mums diamond ring that was actually a gift from my dad to her.”

THE JINN

“One day I was at my family’s house in Madeira. And my families all catholic so they went to church and I stayed at home with my daughter. I was looking in my sister’s wedding album and my daughter was playing downstairs. I suddenly heard her coming upstairs very fast. She said she saw someone sitting downstairs on the computer chair, an old lady with pointy teeth and white hair. I was scared because I knew my sister went out and it was only me and her in the house. So I opened the window and prepared myself that if someone was to come upstairs I would put her out the window and then jump out myself. From that time she was very scared, she kept talking about it. A jinn is like a ghost, but as Muslim’s we call it a Jinn.”