This month is clearly Leeds (Yorks) month.
I’ve never had much to do with Leeds. I visited once, in 1970-something, when I was performing at Harrogate (yes, when those infamous photos were taken), and some kind person drove me to some pretty places ... I remember a picturesque ruined Abbey, and a lovely sort-of-piled up town called ... um … was it Knaresborough? ... and we ended up at Leeds. Alas, I recall only one large public building. It might have been a concert hall. But it might have been the railway station.
The nearest I’ve got, since, was watching the City’s Football team playing an execrably boring match of football, about ten years ago, for an 0-0 draw at Leicester. Haven’t been to a football match since. Or England, actually.
However, Leeds – and more particularly its University – has been brought to my attention three times this month. First by Annie Stanyon Ley’s splendid Leeds University thesis, centred on Sir Arthur Sullivan and the Leeds Festival, secondly by the announcement of an approaching symposium at the University under the slightly worrying title ‘Gaiety, Glitz and Glamour, or Dispirited Historical Dregs’. Yes. Very University-ish. Well, I guess it is just as well I’m not going to be there. OK, gentlemen. First define 'Operetta'.
And then, today, a package arrived from Leeds University. Oh, look, I thought, it’s an air ticket! I’m invited to cause havoc after all!
But the package wasn’t from the music department, it was from the English department. Which apparently is right next door! A copy of Volume 16 (2) of their literary STAND magazine. Why? Because goodness, I’m in it! Why?
Well. I have a brother. Just one. Small quantity, huge quality. He is a poet. No, not just any poet. I think it was the great Bill Manhire who called him the ‘most famous New Zealand poet no-one has heard of’. And he’s published end-to-end collections with, mainly, Carcanet, without hoo-ha or skite, for the last twenty years. So where do I come in?
John has published several ‘international’ books. Translations. The Song Atlas, 52 Euros… great stuff! But when you are being ‘international’, that means you need to be multi-lingual. Enter brother Kurt. So I (only bi-lingual) did the literal translations of all the French items, and roped in some buddies for the other languages. John did all the rest.
The result was so effective, that we decided, afterwards, to continue … the only thing we baulked at was translating the entire poetic works of Genet for somebody. After weeks of labour, I cried enough! What absolute c**p. Even the suicidal nineenth-century Lesbians were not so pretentious! But we continued on to more worthwhile poets and … well, John came up with some splendid end results. His version of Baudelaire’s ‘The Cat’ was even nominated as the Guardian’s poem of the week. With little me in a supporting role.
Well, Leeds University English Department has just published his (or our) versions of Joachim du Bellay in their latest volume of ‘Stand’. No, I don’t know what ‘Stand’ stands for, but I guess you have got to be called something. It’s a nicely printed soft-cover volume, with an, it seems to me, totally incomprehensible cover, into which I shall delve tomorrow. Lord and Lady know what’s in there, but hey! we are …
It’s a far cry from the Encyclopaedia of the Musical Theatre!
PS: Annie Stanyon Ley tells me that my memories are of Fountains Abbey, Knaresborough and Leeds Town Hall. And she knows, you know!