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20th May 2024

So the Persephone Festival was a month ago. We still cannot really get over that everything went so right! It was three days of pure joy and we are hugely grateful to all our speakers (sixty of them) and our guests (a thousand of them). Some of the events are on our website here, free to listen to for another two days, also we have loved reading the fantastic thank-you letters and emails. But now normal life resumes, which at the moment consists of deciding whether or not to change the Biannually (which seems to us to need a facelift) and starting work on the Classic edition of High Wages (wow! it's probably not our favourite Whipple, although of course we don't have a favourite because all the eight novels are so marvellous, but my goodness we so enjoyed rereading about the years 1912-22 during which Jane first experiences working life and then sets up a dress shop on her own). We have also been enjoying the ‘merch’ made especially for the Festival, such as the Wallace and Sewell scarf and the Kate Westcott Persephone apron. Don’t these three Persephone girls look beautiful in it?


   This last month has been enlivened by the marvellous Shoulder to Shoulder, a 1974 drama about the Pankhursts and the suffragettes. It’s unmissable. The Pankhursts are the ancestors of the climate change protestors. The bravery of someone like Trudi Warner! She missed going to prison by a hair’s breadth but now has to live with the knowledge that the government would very much like her to have gone to prison and are appealing. This is absolutely shocking. But then no more shocking than the post office scandal, cf. Marina Hyde here and her comment: ‘It’s hard to escape the idea that in this country (and others), there is a class of people who go to jail and a class of people who get directorships, and there is close to zero crossover’. And indeed no more shocking than the newest scandal, which is full-time carers being made to pay back their carer’s allowance because – because the government have decided they want the money back. 

   We have enjoyed looking at pictures of the study pavilion designed by Dusing and Hacke for the Technical University of Braunschweig.

           It’s so beautiful and shows that modern architecture doesn’t have to be horrible, it’s a choice. This has also been shown over many years by our erstwhile neighbour in Lamb’s Conduit Street, Ben Pentreath, who has worked at Poundbury and is now working on a marvellous-looking new development in Kent.

   The Archers has been unmissable, at the moment it is tackling the extremely raw theme of a young mother, Alice, being an alcoholic.

   Read here about Ribbons by the artist Pippa Hale: 'The work comprises several metal ribbons that weave their way through Leeds, embedded in pavements and piazzas, rising up in places to create benches and low-level walkways. At Quarry Hill, the ribbons meet, reaching out of the ground to create a central sculpture that appears to swirl and flutter in the wind. Each ribbon carries the names of 384 Leeds women (nominated via the public).'

Being, unsurprisingly, the kind of people who very much disapprove of posh men’s clubs, we enjoyed (and were dismayed by) the revelations about the Garrick. The Guardian ran a piece by an anonymous member. He (we know it’s a he) praised it to the skies but wrote the inimitable sentence: ‘My worry is that the club, as matters stand, considers interesting professional women to be clubbable only in the caveman sense’. This seems to us worthy of putting on a Sussex Lustreware jug. 

We were paid a great compliment as follows: Pen Vogler in the New Stateman referred to a nettle soup recipe in They Can’t Ration These '(reissued by those erudite magpies, Persephone Books)’. Really, to be called an erudite magpie is about the nicest and most heart-warming thing one can think of.


Our next book purchases will include Olivia Laing’s The Garden Against Time: In Search of a Common Paradise, John Bowers's Downward Spiral: Collapsing Public Standards and How to Restore Them and All the Rage: Power, Pain, Pleasure: Stories from the Frontline of Beauty 1860-1960 by Virginia Nicholson. Also we shall reread Lace (because sadly Shirley Conran has died) and a volume of Alice Munro short stories because, equally sadly, she has died.

When we are next in London we shall be hurrying along to the exhibition at 48 Doughty Street about Dickens’s faithful companions/pets, one of whom was a Havanese called Tim, presumably an ancestor of Gilbert, the office dog.

Amazingly, they are still discovering new frescoes at Pompeii. This is Paris, the Prince of Troy, with Helen of Troy standing before him. The condition is so perfect it's as if it was painted yesterday. 

In other news: we were stunned and moved by the new Ken Loach film, The Old Oak, the kind of film you want to see again the moment you have finished watching it; and on the question of immigrants (the film is about a Syrian family who come to live in a small town near Durham and how they are treated by the community) the Economist had a leader saying that Britain is the best place in Europe to be an immigrant. There are various reasons. One is our flexible labour market. And the other is that Britons are open-minded. ‘Just 5% told the World Values Survey that they would object to living next to an immigrant.’ Interesting, the 5%. We always say in the shop that 5% of our customers are difficult and 95% are divine. Maybe it’s simply that 5% of humanity is horrible and there is simply nothing to be done but it’s annoying that we hear about the 5% such a disproportionate amount. 

An exhibition has opened at Tate Britain called ‘Now You See Us: Women Artists in Britain 1520-1920.' Also it's 150 years since the first Impressionist exhibition opened in Paris and to mark this anniversary Inventing Impressionism is at the Musée d’Orsay. This is Manet's The Railway 1873.


Nicola Beauman

8 Edgar Buildings, Bath

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