A beautiful Arts & Crafts style house with luscious subtropical gardens overlooking the sea in south Devon, Coleton Fishacre has a fascinating history. Built by Rupert D’Oyly Carte, founder of the Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company, Savoy Theatre and Savoy Hotel, Coleton’s story weaves its way through Victorian morals, opera, the Jazz Age, cocktails, fancy dress parties, Art Deco style, tennis, sailing, romance and tragedy. The National Trust wanted to create a fresh new interpretation room to bring the stories of the house and the people who spent time there to life in an imaginative and compelling way. Design and build company 20/20 enlisted us to write creative, concise, lively and accessible copy for the new interpretation room and house trail.
We visited the property to get a real feel for the place, as well as interviewing two octogenarians who knew the family and had spent time at Coleton Fishacre in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s – and had fascinating stories of their own to tell.
A large box of research notes, magazine articles, historic newspaper cuttings and booklets was our first introduction to the Coleton Fishacre story – and the flamboyant D’Oyly Cartes. After absorbing ourselves in the lives and stories of the main characters, we worked closely with 20/20’s design team and the National Trust team at Coleton Fishacre to establish the key themes for the interpretation. We also visited the property to get a real feel for the place, as well as interviewing two octogenarians who knew the family and had spent time at Coleton Fishacre in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s – and had fascinating stories of their own to tell.
While the architectural and interior details were important elements to communicate, we also considered how to weave these in with the human story in a way that would really strike a chord with visitors. Working within the National Trust’s established brand and tone of voice guidelines, we produced pithy and engaging stories for the interpretation panels, as well as more imaginative pieces of creative writing for a trail of ‘props’ around the house (including journal entries, invitations and letters).