Mapp and Lucia fans from around the world converged in Rye on Saturday July 11, for the annual gathering of the EF Benson Society. This was a very special occasion, as it was the 30th anniversary of the formation of the Society and the first gathering since the BBC series was shown. There was much talk of that, but what happens in Tilling stays in Tilling, so it cannot be repeated here.
As always, Fletchers’ tea room on Lion Street stuffed the forty attendees with so much delicious food, that the subsequent guided walks consisted mainly of people rolling up and down the streets. Allan Downend, founding Secretary of the Society, gave a special tour of the town, encompassing the houses in the books, the houses in the Channel 4 series, the external and internal elements of the BBC series. Pretty complicated, but Allan knows all of it.
Meanwhile the Society Chairman, Keith Cavers, took a leaner, fitter (and much smaller) group up to the cemetery and down to ”Grebe” on Military Road, the first house that Lucia owned in Rye.
Back to Fletchers for tea… people were now in agony with grossly distended stomachs, but it was impossible to resist the array of succulent cakes and scones. The appallingly “diffie” quiz followed and most people were humbled. The usual suspects won the prizes. It was almost as if they had spent their whole lives devoted to the study of EF Benson and his works. Well, in fairness we all had. The winners had simply done it better.
Then, on to the Kino’s Silver Room, where something rather special had been arranged. Dilys Mayor’s Tilling Dramatic and Operatic Society provided a reading of EF Benson’s Dinner for Eight, first shown 100 years ago. When the play was first performed, there was a dispute over a scene involving Mrs Audley’s stockings being taken off and a fresh pair replaced. This scene was not shown at the Kino performance, but it was very much in everyone’s mind.
Photo: Seana Lanigan