A brief encounter with Betjeman

John Betjeman with Gracie Fields, 1960 (photo)

John Betjeman with Gracie Fields

In October 1939 Ireland and John Longmire jointly wrote to Betjeman requesting assistance in supporting musicians at the outbreak of the Second World War. His reply – from Uffington, where he was then living – relates that there were already two schemes in existence for artists, writers and musicians, including those ‘who are promising but not yet established like, I suppose, Benjamin Britten’, Betjeman adding ‘but I know nothing about music’. On the committee of the grander Arts Bureau were Lord Berners and Paul Nash. A second project listed noted men in the arts, with Betjeman writing: ‘Neither Lord Esher nor Paul Nash want to give the impression that we are wanting to save artists, musicians &c but that we want them to be employed in jobs where their talents can be used and not wasted standing in a trench’. Betjeman then asks Ireland to name such young men to add to the lists already compiled by Boult and Sir Henry Wood, though whether Ireland followed this up, given that he was now living on Guernsey, is unclear.

Blue Commemorative Plaque

Source: Betjeman to Ireland, 16 October 1939.


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