I've always moaned about the dearth of cultural events down here in the West Country. Well, alright it's not strictly true, we do have Ways With Words, but you can expect to have to travel miles to find any other events through the year.The exciting talks seem to be centred on the big cities up country and London in particular and it does my already uncertain place in heaven no good whatsoever to read something like the London Review Bookshop programme or get an invite to a Pen Pushers party. I am a vivid and emerald shade of green with envy at what is on offer for all you Londoners, does anyone else get these great pangs of covetousness or is it just me?
But then I tell myself I can't have it all, because we do enjoy nice scenery.
Now however I think I must start to lay that grievance to rest and use it no more because we have a growing number of events of our own.
Plymouth has, since the days of dispatching the Pilgrim Fathers and providing a green for Drake's bowls, been a nautical and garrison city with a grand reputation for all things maritime. As a port with a huge natural harbour, the city revels in its proximity to water, shipping lanes and fish, waving goodbye to Cook and Darwin on their voyages of discovery, welcoming Pocahontas when she arrived, Napoleon passed by on his way to exile on St Helena and the survivors of the sinking of the Titanic first set foot on dry land in Plymouth with much relief, and probably didn't mind at all about the marauding seagulls pinching their fish and chips(thanks to Wikipedia for all that, I didn't have a clue) Scott of the Antarctic should really be called Scott of Devonport because he was born in the city, that I did know because we've seen his skis in the city museum and everywhere you turn there is Scott this and Scott that.
But to my knowledge there has been a limited literary tradition, please correct me if I'm wrong and little arts development beyond the Theatre Royal, but that could all changing.
Years ago the Polytechnic became a University and seems to have finally shaken off that legacy of inferior status which followed those upgrades.
The stunning new Roland Levinsky arts building seemed to pop up out of nowhere, suddenly we came off the main city roundabout one day and there it was, all new and unwrapped. Named after the late and much-respected Vice-Chancellor of the university Professor Roland Levinsky who died in a tragic freak accident on New Year's Day 2007. His name one I remember from his days as a bone-marrow transplant pioneer at Great Ormond Street back in the 1970's and this building is a superb memorial to his vision for a university where the arts and the sciences spoke to each other.
From that has developed Peninsular Arts and a vibrant programme of art exhibitions, music in performance, drama and best of all for me a series of talks entitled Great Writers.Timed perfectly at 6.30pm on a weekday evening for me to drive just ten miles in straight from work as I'm already halfway there.Hopefully any worrying issues about staying awake after a day spent nurturing the health of the nation will be confounded by the fascinating speakers on offer.
I've booked tickets for three talks so far and they gleam like little beacons on the dark mid-winter horizon.
Claire Tomalin will talk about Thomas Hardy in February and I'm already planning a return to Hardy before I go. Both the biography which I read in part and a novel or two which will fit in nicely with the Endsleigh Salon Classics read.Except I've been left with Jude the Obscure which is not heartening for February, so I've sent out an emergency request for The Woodlanders or Under the Greenwood Tree instead.
Then Professor Sally Ledger talking on 'Dickens and the People' looking at how Dickens' fiction and journalism were rooted in the popular radical culture of the 19th-century.I might have finished Bleak House by next Christmas in time to start my next Dickens of a Christmas read which might be a re-read of my one Dickens success Our Mutual Friend. Possibly a bit early to decide.
Finally the SP himself, Professor Stanley Wells talking on 'Is it True What They Say About Shakespeare?' and apparently if I tell him I'm the daughter of the Tinker, Mrs SP tells me he might know who I am.