The University of Gloucestershire sponsored lots of Festival events this year. One event in particular goes back a long way for us. The School of Humanities sponsors the annual Laurie Lee Memorial Lecture, which in the past has been given by Paula Byrne and Robert Macfarlane. This year, instead of a formal lecture, three poets gathered for a special celebration of Laurie Lee’s life and work, introduced by Professor Shelley Saguaro. The poets P.J.Kavanagh and Brian Patten knew Lee personally and shared their memories of the poet, Patten reading out part of a moving memoir. Nature writer Tim Dee talked about Lee’s influence on his work as a writer, photographer, birdwatcher and, in a sense, memorialist of landscape (read Kathleen Jamie’s review of Dee’s work here.)
Laurie Lee is a writer we claim as our own, and we’ve celebrated the centenary of his birth in many ways. Poet and Creative Writing Lecturer Angela France, who knew Laurie Lee in his final years, hosted an evening of Lee’s poetry at the prestigious Cheltenham Poetry Festival in March (and here); Angela was also on the panel of judges for the Literature Festival’s Schools’ Creative Writing Competition , in which Cider with Rosie made an appearance.
Photos & Links: Chelt Fest 2014: http://www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/literature/whats-on/2014/laurie-lee-a-celebration/
Angela France photo courtesy of Western Daily Press.
Of the many writers and artists who have drawn inspiration from Gloucestershire and the borderlands, the Dymock Poets represent a particular moment in English life in the years leading up to WW1. Edward Thomas, Rupert Brooke, Eleanor Farjeon, and others, along with the American poet Robert Frost (for a while) settled in Dymock from about 1913 – 16. They were drawn by the area’s isolated beauty and the promise of companionship and support for their art, and for something more. Matthew Hollis writes: ‘They came from the cities for an elemental life, for the earth beneath their boots or the breeze that stirred the wheat fields.’ * Perhaps they idealised rural life, which is hard and unforgiving, then as now. For a while, though, the beautiful Leadon valley gave them the space and freedom that allowed them to develop as writers and artists.
We can still experience some of that peaceful beauty in Dymock today. In Spring, the paths to Dymock Woods trail through daffodils and bluebells. St. Mary’s Church Dymock stands behind the village green, but the visitor is in for another surprise: the Poets Corner in the northwestern part of the church, where an exibition of poems, paintings, publications and information celebrates the Dymock Poets’s achievements. Read more at the church’s web page on the poets. You can see some more photos at our Flickr gallery.
The author Laurie Lee (Cider with Rosie) has a special place at the University of Gloucestershire. The School of Humanities sponsors the annual Laurie Lee Memorial Lecture at the Cheltenham festival of literature (stay tuned to the blog for more information shortly). This summer, a beautiful area of ancient woodland at Slad once owned by Laurie Lee was preserved as a nature reserve. It epitomises the link between writing and place that’s at the centre of our research and teaching.
But that was in June, and soon Gloucestershire will look like this:
The Gloucestershire poet Ivor Gurney (1890-1937) was also a composer. This week, one of his hitherto unknown sonatas was released from the Gloucestershire Archives for the first time. Gurney wrote the Violin Sonata in E-Flat Major on his return from the front in 1918. Gurney’s beautiful songs and settings are well-known. Listen to ‘Sleep’ here.
As usual, students and staff are enjoying a fortnight of all things literary, cultural and book-obsessed at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature. Yesterday something really special took place. Robert Macfarlane delivered the annual Laurie Lee Memorial Lecture, sponsored by the University of Gloucestershire, to a capacity audience at the Forum. Dr Shelley Saguaro, Head of the School of Humanities, introduced Professor Macfarlane’s talk on walking the ancient paths and track-ways of Britain. His long walks helped reconnect him with the landscape, as well as with walker-writers such as Laurie Lee, whose long walk from Gloucestershire to London and then on to Spain to fight in the civil war is described in As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning (1969). Professor Macfarlane’s book The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot (2012) explores, in all senses, ‘the relationship between paths, walking and the imagination’. The autumn weather participated in the talk; thunderclaps and a terrific rainstorm forced him to stop speaking for several minutes. We felt that it was a tribute to his book.