Saturday, 21 August 2010

The Unicorn.

Spent much of the day at Benjamin Disraeli's country house, Hughenden, which now serves as the regional headquarters for the Thames and Solent region of the National Trust, as I try and work out how to develop Drama St Mary's partnership onwards and upwards.

My initial plan is to create a touring version of The Canterbury Tales and, starting in Ham, tour to different properties on the Pilgrims way - ending up in Canterbury itself. The issue, as ever, is budget and after the 400th celebrations earlier in the year the desire to keep building.

There may be other ideas and projects better suited to the financial climate and the partnership. In particular the Trust's continued emphasis on going local means that something that focus on community participation within Ham may have a better chance at attracting support and funding. Still the meeting went well. The Trust want to develop work with us if they can.

I was given a guided tour of the house by soft spoken Edward, who seemed both to admire and slightly disapprove of the Disraeli. He painted him as a fabulous, impossible creature, filled with brilliance and promise, but, like most radicals, unable to compromise over or capitalise on the success he gained. An expansionist eventually exhausted and overrun by events. The more I learned the more I liked him.

The house itself, now bereft of peacocks, is still beautiful and once inside, remarkably modest. Bizarrely, it reminded me of Graceland. A family home and calm retreat from the flamboyance of very public life.

The gardens filled with mature trees and gorgeous views drifting over a narrow valley, down to the small parish church and gurgling trout filled stream must have given him great joy. Despite his roller coaster career and outsider status Disraeli never really doubted his own importance or ability to be actively involved. It's a lovely place to be.

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