A 900 year old church in the middle of leafy Sussex, just next to the former home of John Bird, satirist and playwright.
The tree on the left is about a millenium old.
Into this idyll comes four rag-tag artists: myself and Ross, James Weisz and cameraman Nick Driftwood.
43 unsuspecting locals appear to see what we’ve done to the old place. Not much, just recreated the life of a fascist propagandist.
With me raised up behind the pulpit, Ross at the reader’s point below (frankly, it’s where he belongs!), a makeshift bar at the back beyond the font and the late spring sun setting upon us, we recreate something of the spirit of the Blitz in a corner of an English field that will be forever, well, just that.
No dead, no wounded. Though one young lady had to leave early due to an overindulgence in Elderberry wine.
Due to technical issues, a section of the video can’t be uploaded onto this site, but can be made available for the curious*
But if you weren’t there. Why not?
More seriously, this was one of the more pleasant surprises of the experience – discovering a venue that no one knows about yet manages to draw in nearly fifty locals on a mid-week evening. All through the parish pump of a few posters and local gossip. Our thanks to Mike Simmonds for knowing where to put the posters and who to gossip with.
In many ways this is the “England on the Lea” that Joyce would wax lyrical over. The England that rejected him but held a place in his heart (or at least his heart’s imagination) nonetheless. Questions arise: ifs and buts.
If Joyce hadn’t been forced out of Ireland, or if he’d found acceptance with the British Arm or the Foreign Office or academia – at which he was generally seen to be brilliant if somewhat eccentrically over committed to anti Semitic thought (not the only British writer or academic of the time to be so inclined – Virginia Wolfe, T S Eliot, John Maynard Keynes all spring to mind), then could he have settled somewhere like here?.
Could he have been happy to make his name as Professor Joyce, linguist and historian, or as an educational psychologist (these routes were open to him)? Would there then not have been a Haw Haw?
It’s the “Kill Hitler as a baby” question; is history made up of the acts of individuals or does the churn of events simply bring individuals like this to the surface? If it hadn’t been Joyce, would there have been someone else in his place – whose story we’d be telling in a leafy field near Lewes in 2016?
Do we master our own destiny, or are we the subjects of other forces, unseen until hindsight makes them clear?
And what does that make us, who tell the story? Do we have an objectivity on history, or will we forever see it through a lens clouded by ourselves. A historical glaucoma? If so, do we bring more of Ross and Doug into the play, and less “Rossie” and “Dougie”?
If you don’t now what I man by that, maybe you really should have been there.
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