Great response to something different at Dragon Hall

A completely different kind of Paston event was held at Dragon Hall on May 31. Called Reading the Pastons, it concentrated on the literary side of the Paston family and featured talks from three Norwich-based experts – two from the University of East Anglia and one from the Castle Museum.

There were also two performances by Chronicle – the Paston poetry group consisting of Rob Knee, Caroline Gilfillan, Kay Riggs and Tim Lenton (pictured from left below) – an introductory talk by PHS chair Dr Rob Knee, who also lead a walk round Paston sites in the city, and many ancillary activities involving re-enactors. Lute player David Capps provided  the background tunes, and there was video footage from Peter Stibbons and from one of the published footpath videos. The handmade book was on display, and there was a small exhibition of poetry and pictures.

"It was a very sunny and satisfying day," said organiser Tim Lenton, a PHS trustee. "It's hard to judge what the publicity will bring, but in the end we had a good number for the talks - between 25 and 35 in each case – and there was an excellent response in terms of questions and appreciation. The Chronicle performance also got brilliant feedback.

"The only downside was that Lucy Care, who is the founder and driving force of the Paston Heritage Society, was unable to attend through illness. We missed her."

Tim also added his thanks to all the re-enactors and to Rob and Peter for their help, as well as to Sarah Power of Dragon Hall, without whom "the whole thing would have been impossible". Thanks also to the other Dragon Hall staff and volunteers who were involved.

The opening talk by by Dr Anna Green (above centre) was on The Paston Treasure, a "gloriously swanky but desperately sad 17C Dutch painting on permanent display at Norwich Castle Museum". In 50 minutes, and using a large number of high quality slides, she conveyed a huge amount of information about the amazing picture, much of it innovative and exciting.

In the afternoon Elizabeth McDonald (above left) spoke about the literary documents circulating in the 15th century and which the Pastons were reading; she made special mention of John Paston's "Grete Boke", and the unexpected involvement of Anne Paston.

She was followed by Dr Karen Smyth (above right),  Lecturer in Medieval Literature at UEA, who gave a fascinating insight into the techniques of medieval letter-writing and the way the language was used.

All speakers provoked a number of questions from an obviously intrigued audience. They (and the Chronicle performance) were filmed by Peter Stibbons for use on the Pastons DVD which is in course of preparation.

The event was put on with help from Dragon Hall and celebrated UNESCO's choice of Norwich as England's First City of Literature, as well as the King Street Festival. It was part of the Letters from the Past to the Present project and was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of All our Stories.