What a treat it was last night to sit in Bournemouth’s hidden gem of a theatre at historic Shelley Manor and hear an evening of music and readings.This extraordinary performance space was originally built in the mid 19th century by Sir Percy Florence Shelley – son of the tragic romantic poet Sir Percy Bysshe Shelley.
The theatre is an addition to the country home by the sea that he had bought for his mother Mary – author of the classic gothic horror novel Frankenstein. Sadly Mary, who died in 1851, never lived to see the grand Boscombe Manor but Sir Percy, a keen thespian and playwright, took up residence with his wife Lady Jane and soon added the theatre to the property.
What a pleasure it was watching Marin Alsop strike a blow for feminism and, more importantly, prejudice-free meritocracy as she took the Royal Albert Hall rostrum on Saturday – the first woman ever to conduct the Last Night of the Proms.
I know Marin, a bit. We met a number of times during the six years that she was principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. I watched her rehearse, perform and interact with musicians. I interviewed her and, on one occasion, had dinner with her. There were only four other people around that table so it was an opportunity to observe at close-quarters what an extraordinary individual she is.