Chalk, Chalk Gardens, and Elizabeth Taylor

Old friends and new

Sometimes everything feels connected. I have been working recently on poetry walks, an anthology launch, and writing some poems myself – all on the subject of Surrey Unearthed. This is a Mole Valley Poets project aligned to a much larger arts project being run by Surrey Hills Arts and involving a range of local artists and an exciting array of approaches to the Surrey countryside, specifically the Surrey Hills AONB –


One of the key themes of the project is the materials beneath our feet – the sand, the clay and especially the chalk. The recent audio walk with the talented Alison Carlier focussed on chalk, some of the poems in the anthology focus on chalk. So it seemed appropriate when I visited Chichester Festival Theatre to see The Chalk Garden, a play set on the chalk downs which I remember seeing when my parents were involved in am dram many years ago. What I hadn’t realised was that Enid Bagnold, who wrote the play, also wrote the novel National Velvet. The film of National Velvet was the first major hit for a young Elizabeth Taylor, the subject of my new play, Sex is Another Language- to be performed at Leith Hill Place and at the Star as part of Guildford Fringe Festival in early July. Details on .

Old friends

To add to the coincidences, the part of the judge was played by the wonderful Oliver Ford Davies. Oliver directed my wife and myself in The Real Inspector Hound when we were students. We have followed his career with almost proprietorial pride ever since so it was a pleasant surprise to come across I’m in Chichester, and to have a catch up afterwards.

Sex is Another Language

Rehearsing Sex is Another Language yesterday I was struck by how many characters had walk on parts in Elizabeth Taylor’s life and how interesting some of them were. Characters who get a passing reference in the story of the life. The same for some of the projects. And the same is, no doubt, true for all of us. For me Oliver Ford Davies, Chalk Garden and even Elizabeth Taylor might all get a mention. All deserve more. Like the chalk under the soil of my home on the North Downs, their stories and influences form part of the bedrock of my existence. Is that too fanciful? Maybe. But these relationships, influences, ideas, all help to make us what we are and some of them have a tendency to reemerge into the light from time to time – rather like the chalk when the rain washes the mud away.

Tony Earnshaw

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