As it’s January, named after Janus the Roman god of doorways, entrances and exits, beginnings and endings, and because I’m leaving NAT at the end of this month, it’s inevitable that I want to look both back and forward in this, my last, blog.
Looking back over the past eight years of my involvement with NAT, both as a project manager and then Director, the highlights for me have been at opposite ends of the spectrum – the solitary inspection walks around our sites which I mentioned last month contrasted with the full-on, crowd-pleasing events and performances which have been made possible by external funding, usually from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
These started with the massed community choir of The Voice Project performing their ‘Ideas of Flight’ piece at St Benet’s Abbey in 2014; and were followed by the amazing ‘Romans on horses’ re-enactment at Burgh Castle during the ‘Life outside the walls’ project; the two brilliant community-developed and performed pageants at Tasburgh Earthworks and Burnham Norton Friary as part of the NLHF-funded ‘Imagined Land’ project in 2017-2018; and the specially commissioned, community-developed and performed play to celebrate the 1000th year of St Benet’s Abbey’s foundation in 2019, in a project led by The Friends of St Benet’s Abbey. The opportunity these projects provided to get to know people local to our sites and have fun making things (the amazing sheep and monks of ‘Imagined Land’) – and doing things (the test pits at Burgh, Tasburgh, and Burnham Norton) – and learning things (all the training workshops and research, especially at St Benet’s Abbey) – and finding out how much our sites are treasured, has been uplifting and the greatest pleasure. To all of you who have participated in anyway – thank you!
Looking forward, I’m pleased to be able to confirm that we are currently in the paperwork stage of appointing my successor, who will be starting at the end of this month. No doubt she will introduce herself to you early on, but in the meantime, I’m happy to be passing on the baton to someone who has the skills and experience to lead NAT on the next part of its journey.
And so, happy new year (it can surely only be better than 2020), and here’s John Clare’s poem ‘The Old Year’ in lieu of a goodbye.
The Old Year’s gone away
To nothingness and night:
We cannot find him all the day
Nor hear him in the night:
He left no footstep, mark or place
In either shade or sun:
The last year he’d a neighbour’s face,
In this he’s known by none.
All nothing everywhere:
Mists we on mornings see
Have more of substance when they’re here
And more of form than he.
He was a friend by every fire,
In every cot and hall–
A guest to every heart’s desire,
And now he’s nought at all.
Old papers thrown away,
Old garments cast aside,
The talk of yesterday,
Are things identified;
But time once torn away
No voices can recall:
The eve of New Year’s Day
Left the Old Year lost to all.
Image: Imagined Land pageant at Tasburgh 2017