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Benn There, Done That.

June 11, 2012

I do like living in Leamington. It’s a quirky little place that wears its origins as a Spa town on its frilly white sleeve,  so I was more than happy to get involved with Leamington Looks Back – the town’s very first festival of heritage and culture.

The two weeks of walks, talks, performances and displays were entirely organised by a small group of volunteers – including Mr Spivey, who helped with the branding and promotions – and aimed to make local history accessible to a broad audience. Although a lot of the publicity material used photos and postcards of old Leamington, I donated a couple of images from my own historical archives for use in the festival programme.

Leamington Looks Back featuring photography by Rachel Spivey

The Leamington Looks Back programme

The above shot of the Linden Arches by the Pump Room Gardens comes for a series of photos I did of the town in the early 2000s when I sold scenic views of Leamington under the ‘Prints Regent’ banner. And the pin-up on the cover is from one of the very first Raquel Rouge sessions that took place my converted garage back in 2009.

However, the highlight for me was getting to meet and photograph one of my heroes, Tony Benn.

Roy Bailey and Tony Benn photographed in Leamington Spa by Rachel Spivey Photographer

Roy Bailey and Tony Benn at the Royal Spa Centre

Tony and his folk singing mate, Roy Bailey, appeared as part of Leamington Looks Back at the Royal Spa Centre and I was there early to say hello and get a couple of shots before they went on stage.

Roy Bailey and Tony Benn photographed in Leamington Spa by Rachel Spivey Photographer

Setting up the show

At 87 Tony is getting on a bit, but he’s still the twinkly, charismatic thorn in the establishment’s side that I first admired in my politicised early teens. Their show covered 1,000 years of radicalism and just went to show how little things change through the years.

Tony would read a bit, then Roy would sing a bit, which all made for a thought-provoking and enjoyable evening in the company of two of the Left’s elder statesmen.

Roy Bailey and Tony Benn photographed in Leamington Spa by Rachel Spivey Photographer

Roy Bailey – right about now, the folk soul brother

And while the show wasn’t strictly about Leamington Spa, it did provide a nice counterpoint to all the flag waving of the Jubilee Weekend.

Tony Benn photographed in Leamington Spa by Rachel Spivey Photographer 2012

Tony Benn – rousing rabbles since 1925

After the show Tony and Roy were presented with framed art prints of the event posters, which they seemed really pleased with. Better than a box of Leamington fudge anyway.

Roy Bailey and Tony Benn photographed in Leamington Spa by Rachel Spivey Photographer

Writing on the Wall posters for the wall

They were a pair of thoroughly charming gentlemen and it was a pleasure to spend a brief amount of time with them.

I’d have liked to have attended more of the events, but falling as it did in the middle of my busiest wedding season I only managed to get out on the history walk around my own little corner of Leam. Getting to know a bit more about where I live was really interesting stuff.

Despite the miserable weather that has dogged the summer so far, the festival appears to have been a big success and is due to come back next year. My heartiest congrats to Fiona and Jenny and the rest of the volunteers.

Here’s looking at you folks.

RS x

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