Parking in Brighton is appalling. Far worse than Richmond, which I thought was impossible, but Rottingdean, about a ten minute drive away along the coast, is fine. You can park and stroll and in the warm June sunshine it was an afternoon of heaven.
The second annual Kipling Festival takes place this week (25th June to 7th July), with a variety of events celebrating the life and work of the man, born in India and most famous for The Jungle Book, The Just So Stories, The Man Who Would Be King and 'If'. "If" is one of those poems written for men, by men, to men, but it is as relevant to women. Kipling himself wrote a lot of his stories about men for men, but he had a formidable mother and married a formidable woman, so perhaps he felt women didn't need the courage and focus, they had it in spadefuls already. And he didn't want to give women the vote so obviously he was deeply flawed in many ways.
The Festival, organised by the phenomenal Christine Foster (below) a local theatre director, this year celebrates the 150th anniversary of his birth in Bombay (Mumbai) in 1865. The events explore the early life of a man who would be Kipling - winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature for the sheer 'originality of his imagination and his remarkable talent for narration' - at the time when the young reporter was creating the beloved poems and tales of his adventures under the exotic influence of the The Raj.
Rudyard Kipling lived at The Elms in Rottingdean from 1897 to 1902. His history can be viewed in a room dedicated to him at the Grange Museum.
I arrived to the walled library gardens to find actor Geoff Hutchinson in full flow under the blue skies, amongst the roses, playing Kipling. Evoking the eccentricity and mesmerising complexities of a man who was prone to depression, he quoted from his famous works, spoke of his life story in first person, then broke into full cockney (although don't think he is) when finished and out of character. Hilarious and rather wonderful. Geoff didn't recite the poem, 'If' which would have made me cry. It has the same powerful theme to 'The Quitter' by Robert Service. It stirs real courage; a quality I admire in anyone, and always wish to build in myself. There were talks from celebrated historians Kathryn Tidrick and Mary Harner, who had a bit of a to-do over whether Kipling's wife was a force for good or just a nag. We decided she was a force for good, who had to be a nag.
There were wonderful little 'sayings' of Kipling, planted around the gardens for the 'Kiplings Kids', where children could treasure hunt the sayings and win a prize at the end, but I found more adults doing it (see below - they are are priceless and timeless).
Although Kiplings home was bought last year (Just over £1.6 million so not London price as it is beautiful, on a green over looking the pond), you can walk round the walled gardens, which are ideal for inspiring a writer, wild flowers, peonies, camomile, garlic, herbs scattered as though the seeds have just been thrown down, but obviously not.
the incredible organiser (Christine Foster).
kipling and the other journalist…(I write poems and books too!!! and I love India. Kiplette...
yes. agree with this one
I think this was tongue in cheek.. depends on the mother…
Not always, depends who you are flying with...
The festival continues this week and is very well worth the journey, especially the performances of The Fever Trees at the Village Hall ((Wednesday and Saturday). for tickets go to firstname.lastname@example.org There are plenty events for children and a writers group, who will read their own work inspired by Kipling in India. You can even walk on the South Downs surrounding Rottingdean, guided by Rob Upward a local guide. Just don't expect to find a parking space in Brighton. Eat at the Indian Summer restaurant www.indian-summer.org.uk to get you into the Kipling mood, and beware the hen parties. Kipling would have been enthralled. The festival was a credit to Christine and her team. If you don't' go to any festival this year, do this. Its baby porridge; small, substantial and perfectly formed. The Kipling Festival is bi-annual.