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I’ve been preparing for this for weeks now and I managed to procure my ticket with the help of Irene, who knows a Mrs Marrett, who knows a girl who attends to the wardrobes at the Grand. Irene also helped me mend my velveteen hat, which I once again crushed in the wardrobe somehow. One day I hope, Isabella’s generation will triumph and women will be running around without hats and pins and all that. I know I gripe about it all the time, but I’m just not a hat person, I reckon. If it wasn’t for Irene’s nimble hands, I’d constantly look like Ophelia right before she went for the river, which is not a good get-up for a forty-year-old widow.

I wrote to Isabella to come up for a week to visit her old Mammy and be spoilt a little, but she’s ever so busy spending her sweet time with Gertler and that Bohemian lot. I worry and worry, a mere child and all alone in the big city, living on pennies to study art. I truly hope her efforts will be rewarded by a solid artistic career of some sort. I often wish she would have stayed nearer to my apron strings in Yorkshire. There’s art and culture here too. Maybe not a scholarship at the Slade and all the young radical ideas, but she could build a portrait business, or even consider carrying on with her father’s trade and become a photographist! I am of course jolly proud of her artistic abilities and perseverance at the same time. I will be there for her as much as my own humble earnings and my beloved Stanley’s small annuity allows.

But enough of my idle chatter about my motherly worries. I’m going to the Grand to see Anna Pavlova in two weeks! Much as I love movie theatres, I need to treat myself to a trip to the ‘real’ theatre every now and then. I do admit, I can be more star-struck than some of the girls in the office. I need to see my idols in person! Old Lavender, me. And the best place to satisfy my passion for tinsel and glitter is of course the Grand!

Many famous names have appeared there already. My favourite of them all is Henry Ainley, who was a frequent visitor ten years ago or so. Oh we had monstrous good times! Stanley was still alive, Isabella was a mere babe and life was so wonderful: we left her with Nanny Doyle and off we went to see Ainley and meet friends. There was chatter and sometimes even champagne!  Once we even met Ainley, who was a Leeds boy. He was born not far where the University is now, at Belle Vue Terrace, and baptised at St.George’s Parish Church.  A long time ago now, even the divine Sarah Bernhardt and Lily Langtry appeared there too. Pavlova’s been here already once. She had a show at the Grand in January, which I could not go to. Bruce Turner, a Leeds painter and member of the Leeds Art Club, painted a strikingly modern painting of this strikingly classic apparition of a woman!

Bruce Turner, Anna Pavlova, c. 1912

Bruce Turner, Anna Pavlova, c. 1912, Oil paint on canvas, Tate London

Anna Pavlova c. 1912

Well, for the rest of the year it seems that the Grand was all about Gilbert and Sullivan. The D’Oyly Carte Opera Company put on six Gilbert and Sullivan operas in one week this year! And now finally: ballet! The Grand will go all exotic this October as brooding and passionate Eastern European melodies will fill the chilly Leeds air…. Anna Pavlova, the famous ballerina is coming this month and Lavender Sabgalle has a ticket and a new pair of olive green kid gloves to show off!

Playbill - Anna Pavlova

PS: I’ll have to write about Vesta Victoria some time too. She’s another star from Leeds that I have met – not a bad record for a woman who can’t tame her own hats, what!

Information and photo are from:


The playbill for Pavlova’s show in January 1912:

For full immersion into the Anna Pavlova experience:

1. Forget Angelina Ballerina! Get the real thing, but perhaps not the Black Swan variety: Froth and tutus in ‘I Dreamed I Was a Ballerina‘ which Pavlova wrote ten years after she settled and toured in England (including Leeds) in 1912. Published with Edgar Degas’s wonderful paintings. Of course.

2. Make a Pavlova. Anna Pavlova toured New Zealand in 1926 and her tutu immediately became a dessert inspiration down under. Hotly debated whether the Pavlova is an Ozzie or Kiwi classic, the fact remains: there is no amount of kiwi fruit and berry topping that can make up for the tremendous sugar bomb simultaneously assaulting your bloodstream and teeth, when you get your mittens on one of these. Which is exactly why we like them.

And finally: Bruce Turner (1894‑1963)! A today lesser-known member of the forward-looking Leeds artistic circle in the pre-WWI era which included Lavender’s boss Sir Michael Sadler, Herbert Read and Alfred Orage. He was also a member of Orage’s ‘Cafe Royale Circle’. He attended Leeds School of Art, and shortly after finishing school in 1911 he met Patrick Heron‘s  father,Tom Heron, who became a major collector of Turner’s work. According to Patrick Heron saw Turner’s work as ‘utterly avant-garde’. he especially liked Pavlova, which he described as ‘a cinematic vision of a moving dancer’. While Heron celebrated Turner as ‘unparalleled in England’, compared to whom ‘Wyndham Lewis seems unpainterly, and Ginner or Gilman too conservative’, Robert Cork saw him as ‘one of those minor talents in isolated provincial centres such as Leeds’ who were fired up by the uncompromising abstraction of Vorticism.’

This and more in: Tom Steele, Alfred Orage and the Leeds Arts Club 1893-1923, Scolar Press, 1990.