Town mouse gossips in the green room

Chipping Norton, in the exposed north Cotswolds, is one of the few British towns that has a set, composed, in this case, of a former tabloid editor, a motoring journalist and the Prime Minister. There’s also a Citadel. Citadel is the name the Salvation Army gives its worship halls, and this one was converted into a theatre in the 1970s. It’s a charming space, with a gallery and a foyer created out of an adjacent cottage, its old bar brought in from somewhere else. During the Chipping Norton Literary Festival, I discovered that the staircase to the green room has a salvaged Victorian balustrade.

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A green room is essential to any literary festival, allowing authors who have spent too long in their studies to gossip with others of like kind. One festal task was to ‘moderate’ (could it ever have been immoderate?) a discussion on Ursula Buchan’s A Green and Pleasant Land about the Dig for Victory campaign in the Second World War.

The phrase was almost certainly coined by Michael Foot. Like the removal of railings around London squares, its importance really lay in the boosting effect on morale, although it did get Britain composting. ‘We had bananas and custard during the war,’ said one of the audience, ‘only it was made from parsnips.’ Don’t tell Heston Blumenthal.

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