Prelude 2020: Greenhouse Freedom

Rob Walker


Greenhouse freedom

Rob Walker responds to the events of 2020, inspired in part by Wordsworth’s epic poem The Prelude. Commissioned by The Quietus and Aerial.

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My mother Mary Walker is 76 and is at elevated risk from COVID. She lives in Manchester in the house I grew up in, and I live in Berlin.

I haven’t seen her in eight months which is the longest time in our lives. She has been quarantining since March, I do online food shopping for her as she doesn’t like the internet. She is resilient and has adapted well to being alone, firstly after losing my father Richard in 2002, and again this year without easy access to her friends and family.

She has a greenhouse in her garden which was installed by my late father sometime in the 1980s. He grew tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers in it which we enjoyed eating. My neighbours and I accidentally smashed panes in it with footballs or stray golf balls, I kept a pet spider in it and many other childhood memories are associated with it. It would slowly gather thick lines of moss on the north side of each join in the glass which needed periodic removal. My mother still uses it to store tools and things for her garden.

I will travel to see her but I will stay in the greenhouse and she will stay outside while we talk and catch up. This is to ensure we take COVID distancing precautions.

The sound piece comprises two main elements: my mother reading extracts from Wordsworth’s The Prelude and the sounds of the greenhouse I create by tapping, stroking, rubbing and otherwise agitating the structure and its contents. The resulting piece was replayed atop a hill near Grasmere in the open freedom of the Lake District. I re-recorded it in this environment, so her words can travel in the freedom of the air, and the sounds of the greenhouse can travel with them and merge with the environment that inspired the words in the first place.


Rob Walker is a composer, producer, mixer and sound designer in film, music and sound installation. As KING REPLICA he recently completed the album ‘Soul Discipline’. For four years he worked on the epic ‘DAU‘ project creating sound for 13 feature films and a vast sound installation in Paris.

Mary Walker is from Walkden, Manchester and creates colourful textile art and needlework. She is a very active member of church and community groups which encourage contact and exercise in Salford and beyond.

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