Thursday, 27 October 2011

Saintly Edwardian, Very Victorian, 'Witch' is it to be?

This week I spent a lovely couple of days in the Lake District, looking at all things Beatrix Potter. I didn't realise until this week that she bought up 2,500 acres of the area in order to conserve it for the National Trust after her death. A very special legacy in addition to the obvious Peter Rabbit connection. I am inspired for my next academic year's project: to develop and deliver 'Beatrix Potter' sessions; literacy, nature studies art and conservation all in one amazing lady. Should be good. And of course, I will need to make a new costume (hurrah!!) as alike to the one pictured as I can manage.

Tomorrow I'll be the 'Main Speaker' at a big WI Federation meeting in West Norfolk, as Queen Victoria. Info about the WI can be found here  

And on Saturday I will be 'The Witch' at Gressenhall's fabulous 'Witches in the Workhouse' Halloween Family Fun event. For more info on this, follow this link:

My job is to be inappropriate, shriek, cackle, and cause havoc. A role for which I have been researching and practicing for the last 38 years.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Tha'as Brooke. As we say in Norfolk.

I visited Brooke WI last night to do Queen Elizabeth I. An unexpected delight, due to many of the ladies knowing my Grandparents, who lived and worked in that village in the 1960s. Unfortunately they both passed away a long time ago, and I don't remember Grannie at all before Alzheimer's took a thorough hold on her faculties. But these ladies knew her well in her prime, and remembered her excellent artichoke soup, fabulously light scones and her tremendous enthusiasm for Mothering Sunday (as Vicar's wife she took great pride in commanding the snowdrops to be in bloom in time for the Sunday Service- they always acquiesed!). They recalled, as I do, Grandad always on the verge of being late for everything and always arriving everywhere in a great hurry. I was able to furnish them with the reason: the family legend of Grannie, unable to leave the house without baking a batch if the oven was 'just the right temperature for scones'. A lovely evening.

After listening to me speak as Queenie, these ladies declared that I have inherited many of Grannie's mannerisms. Shame I didn't inherit the cooking ability too!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

A Review from a Customer (well, kind of)...



"Our October meeting was one of our biennial Ladies Lunches, to which we welcomed as our guest Rachel Duffield, who is one of the “Learning Team” at Gressenhall Rural Life Museum (and also my daughter, just to declare my interest at the outset of this report!). 

She vanished from the room during the after-lunch coffee, and, a few minutes later, we were intrigued to see the famous 19th century monarch appear, dressed only in her shift!  This was the start of a fascinating presentation in which she produced one by one all the layers of clothes and accoutrements Victoria would have worn in the mid-1860s while in mourning for Albert three years after his death.  As it was donned, each one had its own story wittily and informatively told, until there in front of us stood the veiled Widow of Windsor as portrayed in the well-known pictures. To finish off she paraded round among her subjects and graciously answered the many questions they had.

This portrayal of Victoria is a recent development of Rachel’s freelance work and builds on a similar demonstration of Good Queen Bess which a number of members and guests had previously seen. The making and assembly of the Victoria outfit has formed a summer-long project for Rachel and her mother, involving sweat, tears and frustration as well as faltering sewing machines, deciphering old patterns, scouring charity shops and delving into family collections of lace and jewellery! 

Much appreciation was expressed for an entertaining afternoon.  Next month’s guest is Chris Alcross telling us about Norfolk Wherries. 

Membership enquiries always welcome!  We meet at 12.15 for lunch around  12.45, followed by a speaker, on the first Thursday of every month at the Costessey Park Golf Club, off West End, Old Costessey. If you’re interested in what we do, please contact our Secretary, Dan Gentle on 01603 866441 or email

Chris Hurst"

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Crouching Bumroll, Hidden Queenie

Busy times. Lots of Queenie-ing, both eras, many venues- all great stuff. And in between times I have been doing many Upper Octave shows as myself, and working at Gressenhall as a Victorian washerwoman and a 1940s housewife. I need a Tardis!!

'Queen Victoria' went to the teeniest village hall in the world at Roughton and chatted to the WI there, then she also spoke for the Friends of Ancient House, Thetford, most ably assisted, in the latter, by Karen White.

My most recent visit was to Worlingham Primary in Suffolk, a visit immediately preceded by my unexpected arrival at (and swift, guffawing departure from,) Worlingham Pharmacy - should've gone to Specsavers??!!

Having exchanged excellent preparatory emails with Worlingham's year 5 teacher Matthew Brown, I spoke to two classes as Queen Elizabeth I, as a kick-off to their history topic this term. As I'm usually the end-of-term event, this was a new angle for all of us, but the costume had great impact and the children were full of brilliant questions.

Royalty has had to resort to strange behaviour to avoid detection in the past. Think of King Charles up the oak tree, or the 'Bonnie Prince' diguised as a woman. Therefore I didn't mind at all when I had to squat in the kitchen as the children filed past for Assembly, so as not to spoil the surprise. Not sure what Bess herself may have thought of it though!