Buxton should be immensely proud of Vera Brittain, a former resident, even though she was less than proud of the town as it was in 1914.
This is what our new guide, Sarah Gordon, has to say …
In her seminal record of her WWI experiences, ‘Testament of Youth’, Vera says: “I hated Buxton … with a detestation that I have never felt since for any set of circumstances.” Although these feelings seem rather surprising to residents and visitors in present day Buxton, they must be taken in context. Vera was an astonishingly intelligent and justifiably ambitious young woman, growing up in a town and an era where a young woman’s expectation of life was solely to get married and have children.
Why then, should Buxton be proud of her – when it seems that she succeeded despite her home town and not because of it? I believe we can be proud that although the beauty of Buxton’s architecture and scenery have stood the test of time (things that she did enjoy and appreciate), the provincial pretensions and false values of the townspeople that Vera describes have disappeared. The community in Buxton has evolved beyond recognition over the 100 years since she wrote about the town, so we are able to be proud of and celebrate her incredible achievements and not be pettily offended by her criticisms of a time gone by.
When I moved to Buxton three years ago having lived in Birmingham for over 20 years, I looked forward with excitement to living in such a picturesque location, but confess I had some small reservations about moving from a ‘big city’ to a ‘small town’. Any concerns, however, were completely unfounded. I have discovered in Buxton so many welcoming, friendly, creative, open-minded and entertaining people – in fact the polar opposite of the ‘pedestrian and provincial outlook’ that Vera had described a century earlier.
I work as a self-employed actor, so a typical week in my life can, and often does, include anything from performing Shakespeare (I am touring as Lady Macbeth this year), delivering puppetry shows for primary school children or playing an awkward patient for trainee doctors to practice on! I now hope that I can do Vera justice, and I hope I can also fill the shoes of the lovely Fay Walker who portrayed her so well last year.
Join me to hear Vera Brittain’s Tale performed at the majestic Devonshire Dome on:
7 May 2017 at 11:00am & 2:00pm
4 June 2017 at 11:00am & 2:00pm
18 June 2017 at 11:00am & 2:00pm
And on Thursdays throughout July and August at 11:00am & 2:00pm