The Langdale Estate with Dr Elizabeth Fisher

On Tuesday we played truant from work, to enjoy a talk at the Armitt Library, in Ambleside, about the artists, writers and intellectuals associated with the Langdale Estate. The speaker was Dr Lizzie Fisher. We'd heard her speak a few months ago at an event at the University of Cumbria, so we were very much looking forward to this more in-depth talk.

Loughrigg Tarn in the Langdale Valley     
I thought I knew quite a lot about the writers, painters and thinkers who clustered around the Langdale Valley in the years of the Second World War. I love Michael Roberts' poetry and the mountain writing of his wife Janet Adam-Smith. I've long loved Kathleen Raine, and her doomed love for Gavin Maxwell, author of the wonderful Ring of Bright Water. I've written about their friendship before. Also the friendship and literary collaborations with Norman Nicholson. The Langdale Valley must have been a very exciting place to live and work, in these years.

However, I realised that I know very little about the artists and thinkers who made up the Langdale Valley cluster. The introduction to the event intrigued me:

 "A look at the extraordinary confluence of modern artists, thinkers and writers who made work in Langdale during the 1930-40s: writers such as Michael Roberts, Janet Adam-Smith and Norman Nicholson who drew on the landscape and history of this remote valley, the creatives and intellectuals including philosophers Olaf Stapledon and John MacMurray, choreographer Rudolf Laban, and visual artists Gwyneth Alban-Davis and Hilde Goldschmidt who transformed the Langdale Estate into something of a bohemian retreat while across the road on Cylinders Estate, Kurt Schwitters embarked on one of the most important sculptural projects of the twentieth century. Why was this remote Lakeland valley an important and grounding influence for such a diverse but important group of modernists?"

And in an hour and a half we really motored through all of these wonderful modernist artists, thinkers and writers. The breadth of Dr Lizzie Fisher's knowledge is fairly breathtaking! I learned such a lot about the artists and thinkers named in the description of the talk. Most of these artists and thinkers were only names to me before, so I was extremely pleased to have their lives and work fleshed out.

There were interesting titbits, too. Who knew that Kurt Scwitters admired the work of the Heaton Coopers or that Olaf Stapledon, the famous Sci-Fi writer, spent time on the estate. I also learned that many authors I admire, admired and were inspired by Stapledon's work, including C S Lewis, Naomi Mitchison, Virginia Woolf and Hugh Walpole.

Dr Lizzie Fisher's talk was thought provoking and is encouraging me to seek out some of the less well known (by me, at least) writers and artists, to learn more about them.