vol 8, issue 9

What's in your shed? E&T's new photo competition

16 September 2013
By Vitali Vitaliev
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Roman inspired shed

Does your shed have a weird or wonderful theme?

Vitali Vitaliev with Pegasus Cottage

Vitali shows off his ‘Pegasus Cottage’

Tardis inspired shed

We wonder if this TARDIS shed would live up to its namesake and hold the contents of a three-bed semi?

A bar concealed in a shed

The owner of this shed probably doesn’t have much writing planned...

George Bernard Shaw chats outside of his shed

George Bernard Shaw’s writing shed was an engineering mini-marvel

Shedworking and Shed Chic book covers

Two great books up for grabs for three lucky winners...

Shed-shooting – a new photo challenge for E&T readers. Is your shed a place you retire to in search of solitude and quiet? Or is it a place where you can safely pursue your creative endeavours? Share your photos with us.

While the faint echoes of the fanfares honouring the winners of our previous photo competition – 'Take your E&T to Unusual Places' – can still be heard, we are pleased to announce a new photo challenge for our devoted and tireless readers, this time under the title 'What's In Your Shed?'.

Sheds as domestic and garden structures can be traced back to ancient China, where 'pavilions of escape' were built under the Zhou dynasty (1222-256 BC), and to no-less-ancient Rome where Pliny the Younger once famously remarked: "When I retire to this garden summer house, I fancy myself a hundred miles away from my villa."

Among other, more recent, famous shed-owners, we can name sculptor Henry Moore, composers Leonard Bernstein and Joseph Haydn, and writers Dylan Thomas and George Bernard Shaw. The latter's modest writing shed in Shaw's Corner, Ayot St Lawrence (Hertfordshire), was (and still is – now as an exhibit) a real engineering mini-marvel, resting on a revolving base with castors along a circular track which allow it to follow the sun and thus improve the light. Unusually for Shaw's time, the shed was rather high-tech and contained – alongside a simple writing bureau – an electric heater, a telephone apparatus and an alarm clock. Shaw used to call his garden abode 'London', which allowed his staff at the main house to honestly rebuff unwanted callers by telling them: "Mr Shaw is unavailable; he is in London."

My own writing shed is called 'Pegasus Cottage'. It contains a desk, a swivel chair, a foldable bunk and hundreds of books. I treat my 'Pegasus' almost like a living being – I sometimes talk to it, and seriously believe that it helps me write my books, columns and articles.

Above the door is a rusty horse-shoe – a symbol of luck. I found it on the roof of the tool shed that used to stand on the same spot. For a horse-shoe to end up on a roof it supposedly has to be dropped by a flying horse (read: Pegasus; or so I like to think) – hence the shed's name.

I can appreciate my 'Pegasus' very well since while living in Moscow during Soviet times, and faced with a permanent housing crisis, I had to work inside a wall cupboard (albeit a large one), which previously harboured a radio pirate who used it for illegal broadcasts. Having made some holes in the door to allow me to breathe, I installed an electric lamp and fit in a small desk with a stool. I could then type through the night without waking my baby son who slept in the next room and even hum sotto voce my favourite song by popular Soviet band the Romantics with the refrain: "What's in your rucksacks, guys?"

So what's in YOUR rucksacks, sorry sheds,'dear readers? By 'sheds' we do not necessarily mean some shabby wooden structure in the garden, where tools, paints and bicycles are stored. Your shed can be almost anything – from a wall closet or a garage to a storage room; from a cellar or a cobweb-ridden attic to an in-house workshop or an improvised photo lab. It can even be a proper SHED, too. The shape is not important; the important thing is that it will have to contain a window (real or metaphorical) to the unique world of your interests, hobbies and passions.

A shed – the insides of which we expect you to photograph – should be the place where you retire in search of solitude and quiet, the place where you can safely pursue your creative (engineering or other) ambitions, the place of meditation, invention and discovery. We want you to lift the lid on that private little world of yours ever so slightly to allow us and your fellow E&T readers to take a peep and see what's in your shed.

The deadline for entries is 31 December 2013. The competition is open to both members and non-members of the IET, with the exception of those on the staff of E&T and Flipside magazines and members of their families. No purchase is necessary. The decision of the judges is final. For the full rules, see http://bit.ly/eandt-competitions

We are happy to offer two great books as prizes to each of the three winners:

1. 'Shedworking. The alternative workplace revolution' by Alex Johnson (courtesy of Frances Lincoln Limited), retail price '16.99. It is a richly illustrated album with dozens of photos looking at the history, design, pleasure and challenges of owning a shed and working in it. The book is also full of useful tips on how to get planning permission for a shed and how to build it on your own. In short – a great introduction to how to become a shed-owner.

2. 'Shed Chic: Outdoor Buildings For Work, Rest and Play' by Sally Couthard (courtesy of Jacqui Small publishers), retail price '25. This is a highly inspirational and generously illustrated hardcover guide to planning, furnishing and decorating your own mini-building to make it truly special.

Important note: your chance of winning will be improved substantially if your beautiful high-resolution photos are accompanied by a short and witty caption, which will be reproduced in E&T alongside the three winning and four runner-up snapshots.

You can email your entries to vvitaliev@theiet.org or tweet them to @eandtmagazine

Good luck and happy shed-shooting!

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