My Home: Lucy Neal, co-founder of the London International Festival of Theatre

In a quiet south London street, two semis combine to create a large and theatrical space

I have lived here for nearly 20 years. When we found the house in 1986, Simon and I and our first baby were living in a tiny one-bedroom flat in Fulham and we knew we had to find something bigger.

As Simon was away filming, I did most of the looking, which involved blundering around west London looking at houses with Alice in tow in her buggy. One Saturday, I headed south of the river, which was unknown territory to me, and stopped at an estate agent's in Tooting Bec. The woman behind the desk was exhausted after doing all the Saturday viewings, and I asked whether there was anything for sale. She pulled out a piece of paper from under her desk and it was the details about this house - which she hadn't even had time to type up. So I was the first person to see the house.

As I walked round, most of the house felt gloomy, but I stood by the French windows and the sun streamed in, and I had an instinctive sense that this was going to be our family home.

After we bought the house, we sorted out the dry rot and started decorating, bringing back the light of day into it. By 1999 we had three more children and an au pair, and we had already converted the loft. Then, our next-door neighbour died and although it wasn't anything we had ever imagined doing, we suddenly got the idea that it would be an opportunity to buy the house next door, which was the other half of our semi. At the time I was working at the London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT) and Simon was working as a film cameraman, and it felt like a big risk in terms of meeting the mortgage, but we wanted the extra space and so we decided to put all our eggs into one basket and buy it.

We decided we would only knock together the two back garden rooms, which has created a large, surprising and quite theatrical space. We also turned the two back gardens into one much wider one. Apart from that, we left both front doors, the front rooms and the upstairs parts of both houses as they were - if you look at our home from the road it looks exactly like two separate houses.

I co-founded LIFT in 1980 with Rose [de Wend Fenton] after we both graduated from Warwick University. The idea was to create a London-based festival which would welcome artists and theatre-makers from all over the world. I had worked on two LIFT festivals when we first moved here, and as the festival was every other year, family life went through cycles of becoming very pressurised. My three eldest children were all born pretty soon after the festivals finished in the summer, so in those cases I did get a slight breather before I had to fly off to Ghana or China or Chile to meet theatre artists and see shows.

The children range between eight and 19, and the space at the back is big enough for a group of teenagers making breakfast on a Saturday, as well as preparations for our eight-year-old's birthday party. Light is important. Simon spent a lot of time working out where the sun rose and did a great job with the architect designing the back of the house so that you always get the best light whether it's summer or winter.

The room is half open-plan with the kitchen down one side. One of my prize possessions is my old weighing scales, which came from a junk shop in Wales. After a trip away I used to feel at home again by baking a cake: it was my way of saying, "I'm back".

We all went to Bali in 1998, and when we came back we built the "Bali House", which is a little raised bamboo structure in the garden. The children play in it and it's got lots of bamboo around it and I love to pretend that I'm in Bali or India.

'The Turning World', celebrating 20 years of LIFT, is published this week by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, £15

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
News
i100
Property search
Property search
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas