Knowing me, knowing you: Polly Stenham and Victoria Williams

A relationship under the microscope

POLLY STENHAM, 25, is an award-winning playwright, best known for her play That Face, which she wrote when she was 19. She is currently involved with a number of projects in theatre, television and film.

 

The first time I met Victoria was when we were at UCL together and we went on a night out raving. We were all a bit miserable in halls so we moved into a flat in Camden together the next day. It's actually the same street that our gallery is on now. We became really good friends and we've been living together ever since. We've lived in a horrible place in Dalston and then I inherited a house up in Highgate, which is where we all live now; there's about nine of us. We live with actors and arts students so it's really creative. We opened the Cob Gallery in February and it's been great working together. We have really similar taste and we rarely disagree on art, which is key. She's good at things that I'm not good at; I'm quite scatty and not terribly organised whereas she's a real perfectionist. I can calm her down though, the combination works well. We were aware that working together when you're such good friends is risky and I guess it could have gone either way but it suits us both. I'm writing a lot, she does a lot of the organising and together we make the creative decisions. We rarely fight but if we do it's pretty horrible. What's lovely about the gallery is that above it we have a big studio where people are painting and making jewellery and then I write in the back. There's a kind of factory vibe. It's brilliant working with your best mate. If you get along then why would you work with anyone else?

 

VICTORIA WILLIAMS, 26, met Polly at UCL when she was studying art history. The friends have lived together for six years and have recently set up The Cob Gallery together, a gallery space and artists' studio in Camden.

Polly and I didn't really know each other when we first moved in together and I think she'd agree that we had a bit of a love-hate relationship to begin with, but some of the best relationships start like that. When we first met she was a real hippy with dreadlocks and I thought she was a bit bonkers. When we moved into our first flat she gave me a crystal which I thought was hilarious. I remember her writing That Face on the side of her uni work and we would read the lines in our living room. Then it went on to be so successful overnight, it was fantastic. After university I worked for Waldemar Januszczak, the art critic, as a researcher, which was really fun. My contract came to an end and Polly suggested getting a place that had a studio atmosphere as she gets quite lonely writing. She found this one and named it the Cob Gallery after her father. She then asked if I'd take it on with her and I've always wanted to run a gallery so I jumped at the chance to be involved. We're very, very different but I think that's why we're such good friends now. I think we balance each other out. I'm quite methodical and perhaps a bit more balanced while Polly is more flighty. But we have a lot of the same values and we also have a shared taste in art; we get excited about the same things which is great for us working together.

Anatomy presented by Guts for Garters at The Cob Gallery runs until 23 December. cobgallery.com

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