The Barman, by Jeff Hoyle, February 15, 2019
I was one of the lucky ones who managed to gain admission to the recent presentation at the Guildhall by the newly-formed Trust setting out their vision for the future of this unique venue.
I learned, amongst other things, that it is the oldest working theatre in the country by the margin of at least 300 years and that the great man himself, William Shakespeare, appeared on the stage.
It would have been easy to dismiss their plans as just so much hot air if I had not been taken on a tour of the magnificent new Maltings complex in Wells just before Christmas.
Pete, my guide, is a member of the local CAMRA branch and one of the key people in the project which demonstrates what ambition, dedication and persistence can achieve.
The warm glow from the meeting didn’t last long. As we exited the hall into the freezing weather, I fell into conversation with a guy who had made a special trip into town for the meeting and was bemoaning the fact that it cost him £4 to park.
Still, as I awaited the start of the film that followed the meeting, my mind drifted to an alternative reality where the project had been completed and crowds of visitors were flocking to pubs around Tuesday Market that were once again open – such as the Tudor Rose (Shakespeare was a Tudor, right?) and admiring the suspiciously fresh ink stain on the flags which may have been created when the famous author knocked over his inkwell while writing Romeo and Juliet.
And who is to say that the old box discovered in the attic of the Lattice House didn’t contain an early draft of a play called ‘The Merry Wives of West Lynn’?
Meanwhile, the nearby brewery was pumping out barrels of Shakespeare Stout as fast as the customers could drink it.
And even if the truth is being stretched, is the shade of Shakespeare going to appear and say he was researching a play in Venice when his company were in Lynn?
I don’t think so. Spoiler alert. The characters at Disneyland are guys dressed in furry costumes, but does that mean people go away less happy?
For once, Lynn has hit the jackpot, with a publicist’s dream, that can attract people from all over the world.
Or so I thought until I read the words of the local councillor, who I believe is responsible for promoting the Borough. ‘There is no evidence Shakespeare performed here’.
Perhaps I missed the second part of the quote as I spat my cornflakes over the paper ‘but we will milk it for all it is worth’.
After all I am not convinced that a group of literary sisters obtained all their soft toy and scented candle requirements from Brontesaurus in Howarth High Street.
In my mind I imagined a discussion at the local council. ‘Isn’t it great, we have been gifted the best marketing angle in the history of the world.
Let’s push Lynn for all we are worth’ ‘But there is no evidence Shakespeare actually appeared here and we could not get away with saying only that many people believe that he did’ ‘You are right. What else can we do to attract visitors?’ ‘I know, let’s put up the parking charges’.
There is no evidence that this meeting ever took place. Anyway, it is hard to blame the council for their apparent indifference as I guess much of their time is taken up with researching how often Lord Nelson visited the site of the proposed Nelson’s Quay.