Monday, July 25, 2011

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The Rutland International Arts Festival

Lord Bonkers' latest Diary was written on the final day of the Rutland International Arts Festival. At his suggestion, I am reproducing the whole Diary as single blog post now that the new edition of Liberator is with subscribers.

I sit on the terrace at Bonkers Hall, enjoying a hard-earned macaroon and cup of Darjeeling as I survey the crowds in their Sunday best and the trim marquees erected by the Queen’s Own Rutland Highlanders under the supervision of Regimental Sergeant Major Carmichael. Yes, you join me on final day of the Rutland International Arts Festival.

As ever, the Festival is taking place in the Hall and its grounds, as well as at numerous locations across the village and beyond. The performance of The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade, for instance, took place in the Bonkers’ Arms and, though the double booking with the darts match was inadvertent, I am told that, if anything, it added to the drama.

If I may offer an unbiased opinion as Chairman of the Organising Committee, Patron and occasional performer, our annual cultural festival is widely recognised by the world’s leading arts administrators as being a unique event. There is Edinburgh, they often say, and then there is Rutland. In short, it is the eel’s eyebrows.

I could not be present at the Marat/Sade myself as I was at the Home for Well-Behaved Orphans to cheer on their now traditional play. Good as it was, I must have a word with Matron in the morning as there was an awful lot of noise from under the stage towards the end of the performance and the little mites did not reappear to take their bow after it was over.

I have also had the rare pleasure of going to the pictures in my own cricket pavilion. The film I saw was Mulholland Drive, which has certainly made me see the more affluent suburbs of Leeds in a different light (high tea with the Wainwrights was never like that), even if the reels were obviously exhibited in the wrong order. Such are the riches of the week that I could equally well have seen Annette Brooke’s Lord of the Flies or The Outlaw Ian Swales at the same venue.

Elsewhere there has been a traditional huppert show on the village green for the children and, of course, there has been a rich diet of theatrical performances on offer in the Village Hall. Unfortunately, the responsibilities of office mean that the parliamentary party has been unable to put on its usual performance of Shakespeare – for many years, people would come for miles to admire Cyril Smith’s Bottom – but there has still been much to enjoy. Tomorrow I shall be taking in a production of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Anyone Can Birtwistle, which I imagine offers a guide to those ambitious to gain Labour seats in the North, and a musical by one Willy Russell entitled: John, Paul, George, Ringo... & Lorely Burt.

This year I have taken the precaution of staging all the musical events on an island in the middle of Rutland Water. It is not that I object to Susan J. Kramer and the Dakotas playing their “rock and roll” for the young people: the problem is the jazz. Meadowcroft, naturally, was all for there being a large jazz component in this year’s festival, and when I ventured to demur he started leaving copies of the Horticulturalist’s Journal about the place with various job advertisements ringed in red crayon. I took his point, which is why I shall be staying well clear of the shores of the Water this evening. For Meadowcroft will be playing in a concert with the former members of Earl Russell’s Big Band. (You may recall that I offered them sanctuary here on the Bonkers Hall Estate after their leader died. Charitable as we Bonkers have always been, I still think his brother Bob could have Done More.)

Elsewhere on this final evening of the Festival, you can hear the Elves of Rockingham Forest and their “plangent melodies and Aeolian cadences (no money returned)”, while I shall be at the performance of Beith in Venice (Benjamin Britten’s controversial last opera) that is being staged in my own Ballroom.

Some will then take their refreshment in the Bonkers’ Arms – rest assured: extra casks of Smithson & Greaves’s Northern Bitter have been laid in – or at the hog roast on the village green. Miss Fearn will be on hand to offer her assorted fancies, while Mrs Patel from the shop will no doubt be offering her delicious Norman Lamb rogan josh.

The most discerning lovers of the arts will have bought tickets for the Festival dinner, at which I happen to be the guest of honour. Talking of the celebrated Aldeburgh composer, I have a feeling that during the meal I may be prevailed upon to retell my celebrated anecdote about the chamber concert that we put on in my boathouse many years ago. There was a high tide on Rutland Water that night and strong winds; the result was that the waves burst into the boathouse, sweeping away performers and audience alike. I had the foresight to snatch up a double bass as it floated past and paddled myself to safety (accompanied by Benjamin Britten on the piano).

If that were not treat enough, the evening and the Festival will close with the traditional firework display. I like to keep the most spectacular effects under my hat – not literally, you understand – but I fully expect to see such pictures as the Bird of Liberty and a likeness of Nancy Seear painted in the midnight skies. On evenings like this, there is nowhere else one would wish to be but Rutland.

Lord Bonkers, who was Liberal MP for Rutland South West 1906-10, opened his diary to Jonathan Calder.

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