King’s Lynn Arts Centre finds long-lost Nigel Kennedy letters

From left to right, Felix Schmidt, Simon Parkin and Nigel Kennedy, 13 ANL-160216-165846001
From left to right, Felix Schmidt, Simon Parkin and Nigel Kennedy, 13 ANL-160216-165846001

Long-lost correspondence from violin virtuoso Nigel Kennedy has been discovered in the archives of the King’s Lynn Arts Centre.

Staff have been trawling through the archive dating back 65 years, following the closure of the King Street arts centre.

Nigel Kennedy by Janet Sands ANL-160216-170407001

Nigel Kennedy by Janet Sands ANL-160216-170407001

Volunteer Jacky Scarlett discovered a series of letters sent between a 13-year-old Nigel and St George’s Guildhall administrator Ruth Abel, a photograph of the group and two old newspaper articles on the night the prodigy came to play in the town.

He first played at the Guildhall Theatre in October, 1970 with two fellow pupils from the prestigious Yehudi Menuhin School.

The trio played a programme of classical numbers including pieces by Debussy, Kreisler and Mendelssohn for a King’s Lynn lunchtime concert.

In the correspondence, the school’s secretary and Miss Abel discuss the topic of meal choices for their stay, with the boys saying that they were “not at all fussy about food” but if they had a choice it would be fish and chips or pork chops for supper and cornflakes and toast for breakfast.

Letter from the Yehudi Menhuin School about the 13-year-old violin prodigy Nigel Kennedy ahead of his visit for a concert to King's Lynn ANL-160216-171647001

Letter from the Yehudi Menhuin School about the 13-year-old violin prodigy Nigel Kennedy ahead of his visit for a concert to King's Lynn ANL-160216-171647001

A modest request from a young man who went on to sell more than 2 million copies of his version of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons in 1989.

Further letters from Nigel and friend Simon Parkin thank Miss Abel for her kind hospitality and compliment King’s Lynn as a “lovely town” with “beautiful buildings”.

In addition to the boys’ requirements, one message also revealed an offer from Lady Fermoy to Yehudi Menuhin School headmaster, Anthony Brackenbury, to lend her house.

There has been an enthusiastic response from Nigel’s PA, Holly Topps, to say that Nigel was delighted to see these mementoes from his childhood and “sends his condolences on the closure of the arts centre ... it is a real shame to lose a place of such cultural importance”.

1970 programme for the concert by Nigel Kennedy at the Guildhall Theatre in King's Lynn ANL-160216-172059001

1970 programme for the concert by Nigel Kennedy at the Guildhall Theatre in King's Lynn ANL-160216-172059001

In an unrelated twist, the team also rediscovered a painting of Nigel Kennedy addressed to the musician by American artist Janet Sands.

King’s Lynn Arts Centre director, Liz Falconbridge, has since contacted hime to ask him about the painting, as there are no records regarding it.

Ms Topps said that Nigel is pleased to hear about the painting, although a decision on whether the painting will find a new home with him is yet to be decided.

In the meantime, arts centre staff are trying to track down the artist, who was living in Gleason, Tennessee at the time.The violinst obviously liked the town because he was to return to Lynn in later years. A recent BBC documentary on his life featured footage of him in his twenties, as he was becoming a rising star of the classical scene filmed at a King’s Lynn Festival concert in St Nicholas Chapel.

A letter to the King's Lynn Arts Centre from the 13-year-old Nigel Kennedy ANL-160216-171320001

A letter to the King's Lynn Arts Centre from the 13-year-old Nigel Kennedy ANL-160216-171320001

Nigel will be in the Eastern Region area once again for this year’s Bury St Edmunds Festival running on May 28 and 29.