I know I generally write about all things food but this week I wanted to share something a little different with you.

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Some time ago I saw a book called Letters of Note raising funding to be published through Unbound. This compilation of letters from across the world and throughout history was such a fabulous insight into many wonders. Not only was the content moving, funny, inspiring and stimulating, but also seeing the actual handwriting and letterheads connected you to that time in a way that we have lost in this modern era of snapshot bulletpoints and arial font typing. So I subscribed and helped in a very tiny way to get this masterpiece published.

Since then, Shaun Usher has published a second volume, progressed to Lists of Note and more recently Letterheady. But the most interesting development of all has been Letters Live, which I attended this week. See more here

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Set in the impressive, art deco Freemasons Hall in London, the concept began three years ago and has gone from strength to strength. Bubbledogs provide the catering, and there are papers donated by Monoset so that you can write a letter there and then which will be posted anywhere in the world by the team on the night. Money is also raised for literacy charities.

Hearing a letter read out loud brings a different dimension to it anyway and when you add in some of our most impressive actors to take the helm, the result is just magical. You don’t know when you arrive who is going to read and what letters are going to be shared but there is a sense that whatever the combination is going to be, it will be a good one.

The presenters for us were Toby Jones, Stephen Mangan, Tobias Menzies, Louise Brealey, Jarvis Cocker, Karen Dotrice and the inimitable Miriam Margolyes. They presented individually or together as each letter dictated and brought each character to life putting you right in the moment that it was written. From Napoleon to his beloved Josephine to a letter written this year by US presidential advisors putting forward a case why Donald Trump should not be elected president, there was something for everyone. When do you get the chance to journey in one night through the lives of Winston Churchill, Basil Rathbone, Iggy Pop, Tom Hanks as a kid, an Elvis fan, Rolling Stone, Che Guevara, Star Trek’s casting notes, MGM to Disney, Billy Connolly, JK Rowling and a particularly wonderful complaint letter to Continental airlines, plus a few more in between.

Topped and tailed by new musical talent, the star of the show for me was Ms Margolyes. Not only is her diction, intonation and general presence so impressive, but her timing is just fabulous. With one look she brought the house down. She is quite incredible.

So if you get the chance, go! and go again. I am sure each session will bring a different dimension and as one who had that inspiration, it just remains for me to bring back the art of writing letters. I vow to write one every month. This is a new addition for my 50 at 50 ambition – more of that in due course.

 

 

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