FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
LOUGHTON FESTIVAL A GREAT SUCCESS
Arthur Morrison Society proposed
April 2007 -- The first ever
Loughton Festival, held on the first weekend of April, proved a delightful
success for the organisers, contributors and volunteer helpers - and, of course,
for its many visitors! Many more tickets were sold than expected, and some
events were almost completely sold out.
The weekend kicked off at
Loughton Methodist Church
with the presentation of awards for the Children's Art Exhibition, followed by a
lecture given by Dr. Chris Pond, on Loughton's Literary Heritage,
introducing us to the many literary figures that have Loughton connections with
great insight. No meal of many courses ever began with a more appetising
Following this was a delightful exposition of John
Clare's life and times whilst he was resident in Epping Forest. Peter Cox of
John Clare Society painted a simply charming picture of what the Forest meant
and was to Clare, with extracts from his poetry and references to the friends he
made whilst walking its verdant glades.
The National Jazz Archive in Loughton
Library, workshops were laid on for Loughton's future literary geniuses and for
various book-reading groups, and especially for those who enjoyed
Julia Golding's The Diamond of Drury Lane, winner of both the
Nestlé Children's Prize
and the Ottakar's Children's Book Prize in 2006, as the author herself spoke
about her work.
Other talks that day included Loughton's War Poet -
Edward Thomas in Essex (given by Anne Harvey of the
Edward Thomas Fellowship and
Prof. David Stevenson of the London School of Economics), and a very colourful
and wittily delivered introduction to the
forthcoming new edition of the Essex
Pevsner's Buildings of England, given by its editor
Dr James Bettley.
Forest walk to High Beech Church
On Sunday 1st April only true fools stayed away from
the Literary Walk in Epping Forest, led by John Juchau of the
West Essex Rambers and David Stevenson, as it proved so popular that at one point it was
feared that late bookers would have to be turned away. During the morning's
walk, everyone was first given a tour of
Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge, then
later enjoyed two short talks on John Clare and his time at
Dr. Allen's Asylum,
then famed for its advanced ideas on therapeutic treatment, given at the
Forest Education Centre (housed in one of the Asylum's old homes).
After an excellent lunch at The
Church of the Holy
Innocents, High Beech,
Professor Leonee Ormond of King's College and the
Tennyson Society gave a very revealing lecture on Alfred Lord Tennyson's sojourn
at Beech Hill House, detailing his family history, his friendships (including
the ill-fated one with Dr. Allen), and his rise as the Poet Laureate. Not a
stone remained unturned, yet every single one was returned with care to its
rightful place by this accomplished speaker.
Then followed a reading from Arthur Morrison's
of Mean Streets, given at the author's graveside by
Stan Newens MEP, a prominent Labour politician, who then treated us all to an eye-opening
account of the author's career. Stan explained how the author had been so
careful to disguise his own origins that debates had raged over whether he was
writing from his own experiences of abject poverty or whether he really came
from a genteel family and made it all up! But his writing, in the realist style,
was undeniably so masterful that no-one could settle the truth of the matter!
Stan went on to explain that later attempts by
various biographers to settle the question of Morrison's origins proved only
partially successful yet still inconclusive. However, Stan's own research has
been rewarded with the discovery of new source material which prove beyond doubt
that Arthur Morrison did indeed grow up in the kind of streets he wrote about.
Stan showed that even his literary Old Jago Street was a surprisingly
thinly-disguised Old Nichol Street in real life, and with the aid of maps and
census entries revealed how that East-End neighbourhood was indeed Morrison's
own as a child.
An Arthur Morrison Society?
At the conclusion of Stan's revealing lecture, Sue
Taylor, Director of the Loughton Festival, revealed that in direct response to
the festival's publicising, she had received numerous enquiries about
Morrison and had even received a number of appeals to found an Arthur Morrison
Society, suggesting that its worthy aim might be to have the author's churchyard
memorial renovated. Stan Newens praised the idea, saying that studying the
author's life and works was of the utmost value to our literary, social and
political heritage and that the memorial deserved to be looked after, and a
little later Sue announced that she had just been given the first contribution
towards such a venture.
The weekend's events were concluded with a fine
Hesba Stretton by Dr. Chris Pond, in which he revealed just how much
of the author's literary locations were based on local streets and places, and a
wonderful compilation of poetic, prosaic and melodic excerpts all related in one
way or another to Epping Forest, performed by The Poetry Collective in
collaboration with Maggie Goble and Madeline Seviour of The Roding Concert.
Perhaps the only disappointment of the weekend was
the last-minute cancellation of a play which was to have been performed as a
Schools Collaborative Project by students from Davenant Foundation, Debden Park
and Roding Valley Schools, after Davenant School pulled out at the eleventh
hour, leaving the other two in the lurch. But this failed to diminish the great
success of what will no doubt become a favourite fixture on the local annual
events calendar. We look forward to see how next year's Loughton Festival takes
shape, but a lot depends on how many people from the Epping Forest area come
forward to help the Committee organise the event.
Sue Taylor is a Committee member of the Loughton and
District Historical Society. She is happy to receive any enquiries about the
proposed Arthur Morrison Society. Sue is particularly looking for people to help
her organise the new society, perhaps with a bit of fundraising or with a bit of
occasional administrative help. Sue can be contacted at
firstname.lastname@example.org or on 020 8508 2512.
For More Information please