A Wellcome change. By @PhilipLeBrun
By Phil Le Brun
A Wellcome change.
I’m sat a desk in the second-floor library of the Wellcome centre in Euston. Spring’s first proper sun streaks in through the long windows suspending floating dust particles like asteroids in space. Euston road below is bathed in sunshine. It’s amazing how it gives everything an infectiously positive spin. I feel as though the traffic could spontaneously erupt into the opening scene of La La land with homeless people spinning across bonnets of cars and cyclists doing their best jazz hands alongside pirouetting taxi drivers.
The only sound are the murmured queries of students at the reception, the clip-clop of hushed footsteps and the rustle of pages. The centre is described as a free destination for the incurably curious. A destination every creative should be plugging into their Citymapper when they’ve found themselves, as I had, in a creative slump.
After a frantic end to last term with the high-pitched pressure of D&AD still ringing in my ears, Easter assignments and the ever-looming question of partnerships hanging over me I needed a change of scenery. A change in routine. A change of mind. A place once at the forefront of change documenting life, death and everything in between seemed about right. Collecting dots is about having the right tools in your arsenal to make connections and I hoped to find some in this centre of connections between science medicine, life and art. I’m without a laptop or phone and I write this SCAB by hand, which is uncommon for me as I’ve become increasingly reliant and dependent on my computer as the means of documenting anything, or even reflecting (I’ve been using the note functions across both my devices for gratitude and reflections). It’s always liberating to write by hand, without the constant red interruption of spellcheck and fragmented splatters of prose across a document, which I usually edit, cut, paste, adjust and tweak into the final form. I’m not searching for synonyms, backspacing or considering revising my fragments. So if this SCAB seems rambling and inconsistent in style, I guess that’s why.
I’ve learnt that this library has more than 750,000 books and journals and an extensive range of manuscripts, archives and films. I walk around the halls and collections following my eye and letting my feet deliver me to different exhibitions and books which I flick through. An art installation with an enormously grotesque fat sculpture, commenting on the dangers of obesity. Rows upon rows of volumes of folders documenting the the human genome project. Paintings, old jars and equipment centuries old that would have made a trip to the doctors even more painful than standing in the queue at an NHS hospital. Be thankful. I read about Henry Wellcome the founder of this centre. A pharmacist, entrepreneur, philanthropist and collector. A man with an early interest in medicine, but from what I can read, also marketing. The first product he advertised was ‘invisible ink’ which was just lemon juice. But invisible ink just feels a little more ‘sticky’, amazing what a bit of spin can do. For a brief moment this afternoon I am transported back through the chapters of my life to schoolboy curiosity. To when I would flick through my Grandfather’s dusty books about Africa and wonder what I’d end up doing when I was big. Filled with innocent curiosity and nothing else. It was a welcome feeling.