The Big Chair – Autumn Voices – Robin Lloyd-Jones
And what a big chair it was! Robin Lloyd-Jones looked like a pixie – size wise that is!
Loved the concept of the Big Chair. Looking at six photographs selected from your life would really tax anyone methinks. Probably reveal a side of you never before realised.
Robin started with a photo of what looked like a derelict hut. It transpired it was the former summer palace, Coonoor, Nilgiri Hills, India transformed into dormitory block of the boarding school he had attended in India. It was now the ‘home’ of a group of people. He believed it was in India that his awareness of poverty and deprivation began.
His second photo recalled his Cambridge days and doing ‘mad’ things such as climbing up the sides of the colleges, jumping from one college roof to another. Reckless? Dangerous? Adventurous? Probably a foreshadowing of his later exploits!
Robin felt it was at Cambridge he was introduced to tolerance, open thinking and developing a flexible mind.
The third photo was of bride, Sallie, and groom on their wedding day and what a handsome couple they made. They still do. As always Robin acknowledged the support of Sallie. She was/is his ‘secure base, his safe harbour’. He also spoke emotionally about how Sallie helped him to talk about, and show, his emotions.
The fourth photo showed him holding his 1983 novel, ‘Lord of the Dance’. Winner of the BBC Bookshelf Best First Novel Award it was also nominated for the Booker Prize. Set in 16th century India ‘The Times’ described it as ‘astonishing, imaginative brilliance’. Here he spoke of the discipline of writing, saying there was no such concept as ‘no time’. There was only a question of priorities, a determination, to want. As he was working full-time he would stand up to write and eat his supper. True determination and total commitment.
(Photo by Robin Lloyd Jones)
‘The Great Wave’ c. 1830, a woodblock print by the Japanese artist Hokusai (c. 1760 – 1849) was the fifth photo and led to Robin’s telling of he and friends kayaking in a Force 9 gale. Their gods must have been with them that day. The feeling of joy and exultation of such elemental force could be heard in Robin’s voice but he reminded us of the fact we do not conquer nature, we connect with it.
The final photo was of a group of Bogota ‘gamines’. A poignant photo of boys Robin met when researching their lives for his book ‘Fallen Angels’ (1992) Robin pointed out that, in their own country these boys were victims of many sorts of abuse but had no rights and were often referred to as ‘vermin’.
Robin’s experiences around the world led to his work promoting human rights and freedom of expression, supporting the work of Scottish Pen and Amnesty.
(Photo by Phil Worms)
At the age of eighty two he is still writing and actively promoting the creativity that exists among writers as they enter their autumn days. Which brings me to Robin’s latest publication ‘Autumn Voices’. This book explores creativity through interviewing twenty Scottish writers, all over the age of seventy and still actively writing. The introduction makes it clear that society should not dismiss the old as a burden but rather ‘see them as potentially productive and useful people whose maturity, greater life experience and insights are valuable assets’. He further states that ‘a physical decline does not necessarily mean a decline in emotional, creative and physical health’. It is an easy read but does provoke thought and discussion. It also gives an insight into the lives of some of our most loved authors, as well as allowing us to share writings produced over the age of seventy.
The project was funded by Creative Scotland and all proceeds from the sale of the books are being donated to Age Scotland.
Tales from the Big Chair
Tales from the Big Chair is a series of events designed to help, inspire and encourage young people to believe in themselves and their ideas. Hosted by Helensburgh Heroes and following the charity’s central idea that by celebrating past successes we may inspire future achievement, we invite each guest speaker to select for discussion six photographs, each representing a career or life milestone. Guests are also asked to nominate their own personal hero and share two pieces of advice – one that was given to them and one that they would like to pass on to others. Each event closes with a short Q&A session to encourage the audience to personally engage with the guest. We hope that the resulting stories of problems, solutions, obstacles and opportunities will help convince young people that they too can achieve great things. Each event will take place in front of a small audience at the Heroes Centre, 28 Sinclair Street, Helensburgh, G84 8SU. Each event will usually commence at 19.00 and will last for approximately one hour. We also hope to stream each event as it happens and to share edited highlights packages on a dedicated YouTube channel.
Phil Worms, Trustee firstname.lastname@example.org 07788 923055
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