Art in a minute but first that theory about where the Aldburgh Music audiences come from. One of that audience, a Mrs. Alfreda Grime, has been in touch to confirm that she does indeed live in a well-appointed burrow in a remote part of Suffolk. ‘The clue’, she remarks gnomically, ‘is in my surname.’
Suddenly all becomes clear: in the Breckland, a liminal, heathland district spanning the Suffolk/Norfolk border now of airfields and Forestry Commission plantations, is an area of filled-in pits and underground tunnels for long known to archaeologists as ‘Grime’s Graves’. These ‘Graves’ have been, and still are, interpreted as Neolithic flint-mines and are classified as an Ancient Monument. Maybe the small area archaeologically excavated is indeed just that and perhaps much of the unexamined disturbed area is similar, but what is quite clear now is that, originally Neolithic or not, the shafts and tunnels are also home to a resident population of several hundred people, highly educated, culturally-inclined, mobile and tough as the 5,000-year old antler picks which lie around in the corners of their subterranean living rooms.
‘Yes’, said Alfreda, ‘We did have a scare when we were very young when some men in suits came and ordered other men in flannelette shirts and braces to dig down into the chalk. We had little time to clear our homes and replace in position the old clutter of antlers and broken flints which we had tidied away. The antiquaries found them and soon happily went away, leaving us in peace.’
This story of course sheds light not only on the extraordinary survival of this ancient tribe of concert-going, self-styled ‘Brits’ but also on the ‘secret knowledge’ possessed by their once and future leader, Benjamin Britten. It can be no coincidence that his great opera ‘Peter Grimes’ uses the same surname as in Grime’s Graves; indeed the title clearly indicates that he, and he alone, knew where his audience came from.
I was going to write about an excellent art exhibition which I have PV-ed this evening on the quayside at Ipswich. Suffice to say that my mentor in this field, Michael Horn, exhibits some powerful abstract canvases which break out of the rectilinear geometry, seemingly perhaps a constraint at times, which has characterised a lot of his work in recent years.