2013: what a year!

Every year is busy at Shaw’s Corner, but 2013 was particularly so! The year started with a long cold winter, lots of snow and a late spring. Our poor daffodils and snowdrops struggled up against the odds and we struggled through icy lanes and wrapped up warm to get the house clean and ready for the new season.

We opened in early March, with our kitchen range restored, bringing warmth and a grate full of glowing coals. The change in the kitchen was huge and instantaneous. We learnt so much about the reality of the lives of Violet, Maggie and Mrs Laden who used to work here, as well as just how difficult it would be to get lunch on the table for the world’s greatest playwright! We celebrated by toasting tea cakes over the embers and didn’t even mind the sooty hands!

We restocked our shop with some lovely new products, including some gorgeous picnic hampers, jams and of course, Shaw plays.

The highlight of our year was the 2013 Shaw at Home Conference, co-hosted with the UK and International Shaw Societies. It took months of planning, but on 17th June we were so proud to open the doors of the Palladian Church of Ayot St Lawrence to 150 Shaw enthusiasts from across the globe. It was a week long celebration of George Bernard Shaw’s work, times and above all his sheer vivacity. I personally have never achieved anything of which I am so proud. Keep an eye on our website over the next few months as we post the talks and papers given by the fascinating Shaw scholars.

Our two plays of 2013 were Geneva and Misalliance, both wondefully clever and funny, in different ways, full of Shaw’s trademark wit. As ever, audiences attended en masse, bringing picnics and champagne and chairs to the glorious garden, and the glorious words. We look forward to welcoming them back, and introducing new playgoers to Shaw, his house and works in 2014 with Shaw’s second play The Philanderer, and most excitingly, the play that is most widely considered his masterpiece Heartbreak House. We will be releasing details soon!

We had a wonderful summer, full of long, hot sunny days, and the garden teemed with butterflies. The weather gave us a wonderful harvest, and we were able to gather our plums, pears, damsons, apples, quinces and mulberries, from the orchard as well as a good basket load of blackberries from the orchard. We fired up the range and made jams, jellies and chutneys – with the George Bernard Shaw Vegetarian Cookbook at our side. The many hours of chopping, stirring and jar-sterilising meant that we had a good reserve of preserves to give to our fantastic volunteers for Christmas.

And now the house is put to bed, semi-slumbering as we clean everything from first editions to frying pans, bronzes to bed sheets.

The curtain has closed on 2013, but the script is being written for 2014- and what a showstopper it’s going to be!

Lizzie Dunford, Ass. House Steward

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