From Italy to St Leonards
Actors Mary Chater and Julian Curry have given up Italy to make their home in St Leonards. Shakespeare enthusiasts, they both number Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre productions of his plays among the many credits in their respective CVs. They gave readings from his plays as part of Harmony One’s recent A Winter’s Tale concert and are in the throes of launching a new initiative, Shakespeare in Italy (see below). Here Mary Chater writes of the transition from life in Italy to St Leonards.
We left Italy with heavy hearts, but knowing we’d be close to family and friends when we moved back to the South Coast of England. That was incentive enough to leave il bel paese.
In our small ‘comune’ of Fermignano (c. 8,000 inhabitants in the Pesaro Urbino province of Marche) we were the only English couple, so had to learn Italian pretty fast! I taught English in local state schools and at Urbino university, and Julian worked at the two volumes of his book Shakespeare on Stage.
Lots about our existence there was enchanting – we had access to the best food locally reared and grown, life-enhancing sunshine for much of the year and the natural world on our doorstep with golden eagles, wild boar, porcupines and vipers aplenty (we lived in the foothills of the Apennines where the air was like champagne with no industrial or light pollution, black starlit skies at night).
However we were isolated because we lived at the bottom of a steep road and regularly got cut off in the winter when the road froze over. In February 2012 it snowed so hard and long that in places the drifts measured three metres. We got out twice in 23 days, the isolation was becoming a problem.
There seem to have been a lot of wonderfully sunny days since we moved here last summer. People said this part of the south coast was a exceptionally sunny, and it’s true!
What we also love about being in St Leonards is living close to the sea, and the friendliness of our neighbours. We can walk to the shops either in Silverhill or have more of a legstretch down through Alexandra Park into Hastings. The fresh fish Julian buys at Rock-a-Nore is mouthwatering and being able to walk along the seafront is a huge plus.
I’ve been walking around St Leonards and am fascinated by the variety of exceptionally good architectural styles in the houses and how you can strike up a conversation with people as you pass. That feels like being back in Italy where strangers would talk at the drop of a hat!
There are obvious problems with homelessness and Class A drugs but that is a terrible fact of 21st century life – there are massive drug problems in Italy too, all over the country.
Having developed a successful method of teaching English as a foreign language in local Italian state schools and colleges, I’m finding a strong demand for the same thing here, and have begun doing so with refugees and asylum seekers at the Links Project in Hastings. Hopefully this will help them to integrate more easily and quickly.
We are launching our new company Shakespeare in Italy, and involved in meetings in London re core funding, charitable status and plenty more, therefore the accessibility to Warrior Square train station is wonderfully convenient.
All in all, we are very happy to be living in St Leonards.
“Shakespeare In Italy seeks to enhance experience and international understanding of the works of Shakespeare and in particular appreciation of the influence of the Italian Renaissance, culture and philosophers on all his writing.
The Company aims to explore this with actors and artists through performance in the UK, Italy and beyond, as well as via a programme of education and outreach.”
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