What is the best way of launching a new biography in Covid-19 times? As 26 March 2022 would have been the birthday of Isobel Holst (born in 1876), singing in the Dulwich Choral Society concert on that day, with a programme featuring works by her husband Gustav and daughter Imogen, as well as by their great friend Ralph Vaughan Williams, seemed ideal. Publicity banner and postcards at the ready, everything was going to plan until 25 March, when Covid finally caught up with this newly published author.
Fortunately, three weeks later, on 16 April, a signing event at Thaxted, organised by the Thaxted Society at the lovely and historic Gifted shop next door to the house where the Holst family lived for several years, was able to go ahead as planned. The venue was once the Recorder’s House, complete with its linenfold panelling. By the Holsts’ time it was the grocer’s shop, much used by the Holsts, and where Isobel’s pet dog became unwelcome as he put off customers with his barking. That was one of many reminiscences shared during the morning’s signing session. At one stage in proceedings a former pupil of Gustav Holst’s colleague and amanuensis Vally Lasker was sharing memories with those of the brother of Vally Lasker’s god daughter. As the author, I had a wonderful day, signing and – most importantly – listening to insights and thoughts about the extraordinary Holst family.
I tried to explain why I wrote Isobel Holst’s biography in a radio interview for the “Cooler Classics” programme shortly before publication.
Link: Cooler Classics
Returning to one of the places which meant so much to Isobel and Gustav Holst to sign copies of my biography of Isobel has left me with yet more insights into their lives.
Mrs Gustav Holst: An Equal Partner? by Philippa Tudor
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