“Words I never thought to speak” T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding and Festivals of Words

‘If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same…’

T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding, (No. 4 of ‘Four Quartets’)

Except of course that it wouldn’t, because for the last six years the Little Gidding T.S. Eliot Festival has been quietly growing. To investigate further and to ensure that Web of Friendship: Nicholas Ferrar and Little Gidding and Anglo-Catholic in Religion: T.S. Eliot and Christianity were duly promoted (they were), the newest member of the Lutterworth team attended the event incognito.

There are pictures below of the delightful scene she discovered but of course what the crowd were there for was words; they were not disappointed. In the form of readings, lectures, discussions and song, inspirational words flowed through the beautiful grounds of Ferrar House.

The weekend saw at least seven very erudite speakers engage with an equally passionate and opinionated audience on many aspects of Eliot’s life and legacy, particularly those pertaining to the physical and metaphysical importance of Little Gidding itself. The history of Little Gidding and the Ferrar family, the subject of Joyce Ransome’s new book, was known to Eliot and although it is the later history of the family and house which is alluded to in the symbolism of the forth of his ‘Four Quartets’, the piety of the location is significant to his poetry and indeed his own personal faith— the topic of  Barry Spurr’s work. In addition to the words, wonderful music was provided by Alexander Kershaw, the fantastic Time Loves Changes quartet and some 1920s and 30s music specially arranged by poet and priest Malcolm Guite.

Over 100 people attended the festival from all levels of familiarity with the bard. On Saturday Joyce Ransome herself was in the audience, and on Sunday the numbers were swelled by students of the T.S. Eliot International Summerschool.

The festival was a great success in terms of both enjoyment and learning however this is in

proportion to the huge amount of effort in terms of planning and organising that went into the event. Particular praise and mention should go to Wendy and Paul Skirrow, the new occupiers of Ferrar House who took on the challenge of the festival having only been in residence eight months. Also to the members of the planning committee who not only planned but brilliantly compèred (Simon Kershaw), and lectured (Hugh Black-Hawkins) as well as representing their own societies-the Friends of Little Gidding and the T S Eliot Society (UK). Huge thanks should also go to the staff and volunteers for all their work behind the scenes, particularly in producing the amazing meals, teas and cakes that kept everyone going.

As a complete Eliot novice this under-cover observer would defiantly recommend attending the event in the future however the continuation of the festival depends on the hard work of those involved. If you would like more information about the festival and how you can help maintain Eliot’s memory at Little Gidding, please email eliotfestival@littlegidding.org.uk.


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