Thursday, 5 November 2009

Off their rocking horse

It's not looking good for the DH Lawrence Heritage Centre in Nottinghamshire. Not at all. The local Broxtowe Council wants to save £60,000 on the Centre and nobody has yet come up with a plan other than full or at best partial closure. Actually that is not quite right, Nottingham University - which has a big interest in Lawrence - tried to raise £1 million for a major development on the site but this grand scheme came to naught. Perhaps it was too grand. But Nottingham University is hardly a poor university, so did it have to be all or nothing? It would appear so.

Eastwood certainly needs the Lawrence trade. I don't mean that every business should become the Lawrence Snackery or the Phoenix Hair Salon, but the town is not doing so well and it could benefit hugely from an expansion, not contraction of one of its few attractions.

Most everyone is turning away, embarrassed or finding it not within their brief - the Arts Council, the County Council, Writing East Midlands, the Museums and Libraries Association. The local Broxtowe District Council makes the right noises but seems incapable of coming up with a plan to make the building work. A lot more, a lot more could be done to make the Heritage Centre thrive. The East Midlands has a fairly modest amount of big names in its literary heritage and Lawrence is up there.

But actually Lawrence has made some people very, very rich. When he was alive he lived a fairly financially precarious existence, but in death his literary estate became for a period one of the most valuable in the world, and he is still earning. Where did that money go? Well, Penguin did pretty well in the wake of the Lady Chatterley trial and the Lawrence Pollinger Literary Agency (now Pollinger Ltd) carefully looked after their percentage of the royalties. The royalties themselves? Lawrence effectively left his copyright to his wife Frieda, who in turn left it to her next husband, who in turn left it to his children by an earlier marriage (correct me if I am wrong!), so out there somewhere are people who have done very well indeed by nothing more than chance. Maybe they have the odd fiver going spare?

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