I’ve had a lovely weekend away with Heather, but I was disappointed that it meant having to miss some of the Ryton Festival events. I’ll be going again this Thursday evening however, for the eleventh session in Emma Hall. For full details of this weekend’s activities go to Ryton Festival.
I have of course mentioned that the festivals of the past have boasted two marvellous talents, Sir Thomas Allen (opera) and Wendy Craig. Wendy Craig is one of the most revered actresses this country has ever produced, and her face is instantly recognisable. Her voice is immediately recognisable too, because I knew exactly who was speaking when she so kindly telephoned me this morning. I was sitting at work, Tuesday blues after being away, when my mobile phone chuntered into life with its Batman ringtone. There on the other end of the line was Wendy Craig. This is NOT something that generally happens during the course of my working day! She was absolutely charming, completely unhurried, and more than willing to answer my questions. She was also very interested to hear that Ryton Festival is still going strong after 72 years, and wanted to know when exactly it’s held, and over what evenings.
Wendy says that she doesn’t remember a great deal about the festival itself, but only because she was so young. She thinks she might have been four of five, and the year would have been about 1939. She tells me that she was quite a precocious four-year old, but she can remember feeling very nervous. We talked about that for a bit, and I told Wendy how I get butterflies for the young performers by just watching them. Wendy mentioned receiving elocution lessons from a lady called Margaret Marshall, who lived in Durham, and who was clearly someone whom Wendy held in high regard.
She said that she can’t recall the venue in Ryton where she performed, but she thinks she recited a poem which included the lines “Rosemary, sweet Rosemary, walking down the isle” and that it may be by Walter de la Mare. I googled it during my lunch hour and I haven’t been able to find it thus far, but I’ll look again later. Wendy also mentioned taking part in a festival over in Wallsend, which I don’t think is still going, but maybe somebody reading this will know.
It was so kind of this very famous and busy lady to get in touch with me, and though her memories of our festival are hazy, because she was just little, it’s clear that she has never forgotten her roots (she was born in Sacriston.) I know she’s going to read this, so thank you Wendy, it was lovely to talk to you. I am not one of the festival officials, but I’m pretty confident that if you should happen to be in the North East while the festival is on, there will be no need to worry if you don’t have a ticket!
The way Heather and I settle upon a destination for a weekend break, is by looking through the websites of musical artists we like, and if someone is appearing at say, the Theatre Royal in York, then we book seats and have a few days there. The destination for last weekend was picked in a similar way, but this time it was for a sporting attraction rather than a musical one. We looked to see who Gateshead FC were playing away from home. They were at Braintree FC in Essex, so we went down to support them.
At the end of last month we went to see Newcastle United play Aston Villa at St. Jame’s Park. Certain sections among both sets of fans, spent more time trying to goad each other, V signs etc., than watching what was going on down on the pitch. Braintree play at the Miles Smith Stadium, and what a happy friendly place it is. Everyone, from the staff in the nearby Orange Tree pub, to the first steward we encountered on the gate, folk on the turnstiles, and the Braintree fans, were all fabulously kind to us. I hope that we Geordies reciprocate the lovely welcome when Braintree are next at the Gateshead International Stadium. Gateshead lost by the way.