Durban House: Tesco, anyone?
The D.H Lawrence Centre at Durban House, Eastwood has gone the way of the Dodo and the Sinclair C5. It officially closed its doors on 31 March, going out with neither a bang nor a whimper; just a deafening silence. According to one local ward Councillor in Eastwood, there were only 2 complaints from his constituents when it was stated Durban House was to be closed. But plenty of Celebs chirped up in support.
A public debate was held on 22 March which was facilitated by Katherine Wilson and Kirstie McKenzie from Number 8 Marketing. But this was a token gesture and, in my opinion, a waste of the £20,000 the Arts Council stumped up to find viable alternatives. You can sit and discuss possibilities as much as you like but the bottom line is Broxtowe want to flog the building off as soon as possible to balance their books. Councils are being absolutely hammered at the moment and just as they pop up for air for a few seconds, the next round of cuts comes stamping down on their noggin. They are faced with an impossible situation so let’s stop pretending that anyone really cares. As Lawrence wrote in Lady C: “Money poisons you when you’ve got it, and starves you when you haven’t.”
Lawrence was a phenomenal writer and this is not up for debate. The real question that this whole fiasco raises is how much we value culture. There is some justification for Durban House going in that there is still the Birthplace Museum which has deeper significance and a more tangible link to old Beardo. But in closing down the Centre, are we in danger of setting a dangerous precedent? Will we be having this conversation in a couple of years about 8a Victoria St when the next round of cuts takes hold?
The most feasible means of keeping Durban House alive would be to turn it into a high-end writer’s retreat using the Arvon model as has happened with Lumb Bank, Ted Hughes old gaff in Heptonstall. This in turn could then feed into a wider programme that links up other key literary locations within the region. But this would require professional support, planning and marketing and is, with the greatest of respect, beyond the capabilities of Council bods with no comprehension of Lawrence’s significance as a writer or human.
D.H Lawrence travelled the globe and featured in Issue 7 of Dawn of the Unread
Lawrence had an opinion on everything and tapping into these key ideas and themes is the key to building a sustainable legacy that would have global appeal. I would personally focus on his work as a nature writer and use this as a starting point to address topical themes, not least of all the shithole we’re making of the planet.
Lawrence was also a restless beast, travelling the world in search of ‘Rananim’, a kind of utopian community of like-minded individuals. He certainly wouldn’t want to be constrained to something as fixed and soulless as bricks and mortar. If there was a way of taking these principles and encouraging people from around the world to create temporary ‘Rananims’’ in Eastwood, perhaps week-long think tanks discussing specific topics, you might, just might, find a way of developing a sustainable model.
James Walker and Paul Fillingham are recreating D.H Lawrence's savage pilgrimage in 2017 through a digital Memory Theatre.