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John Cowper Powys T. F. Powys Llewelyn Powys The Powys Family
'For when we talk of the Powyses, either individually or as a group, we do not speak of personalities merely, for their various works and characters interact with those of their readers and create new realms of experience.' - Glen Cavaliero
john cowper powys t f powys llewelyn powys the powys family

~ Potted Herring ~ 

Numerous are the ways readers discover the works of one of the Powyses. For singer Diana Johnstone it was to be Driftwood by Philippa Powys. Holidaying in and around Lulworth, Diana eventually found herself in East Chaldon where four of the Powys siblings once lived: Theodore, Llewelyn, Gertrude and Philippa. Following a sign for ‘Writers Walks’ around the village – ‘Every Wednesday, June to September, a five mile guided walk around the rolling landscape that inspired members of the Powys family, Sylvia Townsend Warner and others’ – Diana arrived too late for the walk itself so decided to explore St Nicholas Church and was struck by a collage by Elizabeth Muntz of the Nativity.

Outside, two chance meetings in the churchyard and later in the village, with people who were obviously passionate about the village and its history of the writers and artists who had lived and worked there, Diana first encountered the name 'Powys'! Fascinated by tales of these “extraordinary inhabitants in this extraordinary village” and particularly intrigued by accounts of Philippa, she was lent a copy of Driftwood. diana Jjohnstone,  tim laycock, chaldon herring, powys societyThese poems immediately struck a deep and resonant chord and it wasn’t long before that joyous sense of discovery, empathy, spiritual affinity and “coincidence” resulted in a concert jointly organised with Chaldon residents, John Brewster and Jeremy Selfe. Less than three weeks later, on Saturday 28th August 2010, an audience of around fifty, including Louise de Bruin and myself, gathered in St Nicholas to listen to Diana, and Dorset-based folk musician and playwright Tim Laycock, present ‘Potted Herring, A Nostalgic Evening of Songs and Poems from Coast and Land in Celebration.’ The first half of the concert consisted of fine renditions of traditional and sensitively self-penned songs, with Diana on acoustic guitar and Tim playing concertina and hand bells, interweaved with suitably evocative poems of shore and sea.

The second half continued in  similar vein but this time interspersed with a selection of Philippa's poems, including ‘The Under-Cliff’, ‘Cowslips’, ‘To The Blue Butterfly’, ‘At Dusk’, ‘Tangible Life’ and ‘To Gertrude’, the last of which prefaced Diana’s own delicate and moving song to her sister, ‘Spinning.’ Just before the audience were invited to join in for the finale, and Tim's internationally acclaimed song 'Row On', Diana concluded with her own setting to music of Philippa’s ‘Ploughing' (which would unequivocally merit inclusion on her next CD album).

It had been a unique, utterly enchanting evening of spontaneous kinship and many discoveries to which that all-too overused word ‘magical’ would, in this instance, most justifiably apply. Of the ten copies of the Society’s edition of Driftwood that Louise and I had brought, a copy each went to Diana and Tim while the remainder were eagerly purchased by members of an appreciative audience, many of whom subsequently headed off to the village hall by the gates to St Nicholas for a splendid supper. Over wine, good food, laughter and convivial conversation, Diana, Louise and I also discovered that Tim had adapted ‘A Poor Man’s House’ by Philippa’s great love, Stephen Reynolds, for the Sidmouth International Festival, performed in the Manor Pavilion in 1992 and again in 2005. It seemed it had been an evening of coincidences, or perhaps not: Louise had inscribed in Diana’s copy of Driftwood: ‘There are no coincidences!’


Outside, we all gradually dispersed, receding into the darkness as a hallowed wind moved through the moonlit valley. 


The Powys Society Newsletter No. 71

November 2010

An Archive of Powys Family Material and Information

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“In books dwell all the demons and all the angels of the human mind. It is for this reason that a bookshop — especially a second-hand bookshop / antiquarian — is an arsenal of explosives, an armoury of revolutions, an opium den of reaction.” — John Cowper Powys

“She would wish that far stranger weddings happened in the world than anything that she saw or heard of at Madder. She needed much more than plain Madder life to interest her — some events more like a proceeding that had happened in a book of fables that she had once read, where a little mouse wished to be joined in holy wedlock with a lioness, who, unluckily going out to meet her little dear before the wedding, chanced to set her foot upon him.” — T.F. Powys

 "No sight that the human eyes can look upon is more provocative of awe than is the night sky scattered thick with stars.” — Llewelyn Powys

david ganett the sailors return, east chaldon, chaldon herring, bloomsbury 
chaldon herring by Judith stinton, east chaldon
durdle dor

by David Garnett

(Written and set in The Sailor's Return, East Chaldon)
Writers in a Dorset Landscape
by Judith Stinton
Essential reading for those interested in the village, its history and literary inhabitants. 
Durdle Door

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