Once in a while you might stumble upon a quirky shop or unusual venue hidden away somewhere, the sort of place that makes you go Wow – I had no idea this was here. Advertising blurb would call such a place a ‘hidden gem’ and although not out specifically treasure hunting earlier this year, I did indeed stumble upon a hidden gem in Monmouth. I’m sure Monmouthians know all about their beautiful little theatre, The Savoy but it was news to me, and any theatre that has it’s foundations built on the same foundations as an 18th century pub has to be a winner. The little entrance is at the bottom of Church Street, a narrow winding little street that in no way hints at having a theatre at the end of it. If I’d been asked ‘What do you think is at the end of this street – a charity shop, an launderette, an antiques shop or a theatre?’ I would have gone with antiques shop. And I suppose in a way, that’s what this little theatre is.
The Savoy is a real proper theatre but also acts as a cinema and general all-round brilliant venue. Sadly I wasn’t in Monmouth long enough to go to a show there, but I would have if I’d had the chance. The venue is now run by volunteers and thank goodness for such people, for without them astonishing buildings and heritage like The Savoy would be lost. So if you cross the border from Gloucestershire or Herefordshire into Monmouthshire, do find time to visit this wonderful little theatre.
Another place that was a surprise find was the basement of a cafe in Leamington Spa. Not that I was actually surprised that a) said cafe had a basement, but b) that it was an uber cool venue for music, theatre, stand-up, open mics, art, film – you name it, The Temperance Bar in Bath Street Leamington, supports it. In the digital age of streaming and gaming, finding places such as these is treat – there is something deep in our psyches I think about big buildings and little buildings – big caves and little caves that feed the imagination. Maybe it’s the acoustics. Did you ever make a den as a child? – scrabbling around trying to stop the quilt or sheet falling in on you, stuffing the corners under books and toys that were balanced on the edge of the bed or bedside table, just so you could have your own little space lit by a torch and shared with only your most precious toys – and of course a book.
There is a little copse not too far from where I live and when I’m out on a rare ramble I have a poke about this little copse just out of interest. And always – come rain or sun or snow or frost – there is a little den there that someone has made of logs and twigs and branches. Now, if I wanted to go down the LRR route and let my imagination runaway with me, I could go all Blair Witchy and completely creep myself out, but I wouldn’t want to spook myself alone in the woods. That might cause me to run a little bit faster than is healthy and fall flat on my face as I trip over a twig. And how embarrassing would that be. But the point is, we do love a den. A hovel. A hidey-hole; whatever you want to call it. And maybe as writers, we all have one of those deep inside our minds too. I like to think it’s where the words live. The storylines, plots and ideas live. In a little venue all of their own.