Reflections on Capital Letters Day 2023

Capital Letters Day on 17 June loomed large in my diary for many a month. I planned my trip up from Devon to coincide with a social visit and job of work, long overdue, nearby.

Goodenough College was easy to find and on a hot day the spacious grassy courtyard offering shade and plenty of seating was welcoming.  Once inside there were quite a number of stairs between rooms and any directions to refreshment sources and other essentials were a little inadequate but the buzz and bustle of setting up by the exhibitors, demonstrators and sellers was reassuringly familiar.

I clutched my small contribution to the Lay Members' Exhibition and placed it together with its generous ‘commentary’ on the table. There were sadly not very many exhibits this time perhaps in part due to having to deliver them in person rather than send them in advance to an organiser as in the past. What was there was wonderful, such a joy to see everyone’s endeavours, augmented this year by an invitation to produce work using any material, so we had works from eye catching fabric hangings to a pebble among the more conventional works.

Many congratulations to the ATS and Study Days participants whose inspired and inspiring work was displayed around the room – plenty to look at and marvel over with a chance to chat to the creators too.

At a time when we have seen some regional groups disband it was good to see a colourful display by South London Lettering Association with work from their members celebrating their 25th anniversary. They are certainly a lively and productive group, long may they continue.

There were some significant distractions to the proceedings as the King’s birthday celebrations and the Trooping of the Guard ceremony took place a mere stone's throw away, not visible but, at times, very audible!

Scribblers and Calligraphity’s wares were a welcome sight, as was the SSI sales table with bargains galore keeping Helena busy (such a shame that I wasn’t prepared for cash only sales).

Following the new departure to include ‘other materials’ it was fabulous to have Simon Langsdale demonstrating stone carving, working on a piece of Neuland raised lettering throughout the day. For me that was a highlight as letter cutting is my current passion and I treated myself to a small piece of his work which serves very well as an exemplar for my learning…well that’s my excuse!

Alejandra Gondali was on hand with information about the Copperplate Special Interest Group and Richard MacLeod was demonstrating his skills in Arabic calligraphy.

‘Would you like a raffle ticket?’ Well, I might’, glancing about for the obligatory bottle of wine…oh no, no, no… an array of splendid work donated by some of our Fellows and Lay Members. Oh my goodness, once the word got out we were, and I include myself here, selling tickets like hot cakes, couldn’t tear off a strip fast enough….that’s where what little cash I had got used. At £1 a ticket those lucky enough to win went home with a treasure under their arm and over £200 was raised for the Trussell Trust.

Then to the AGM, a brief and business-like affair which included the third-year ATS students: Elaine Gillingham, Mabel Little and Donna Foster, receiving their certificates.

The three favourite artworks in the Lay Member’s exhibition were also announced.

This was followed by the Daubney lecture given by Tim Noad. Tim is one of only a very few people who are justly entitled to name-drop. His patrons and those who commission his work are a veritable who’s who of recent times. He lauded his peers and predecessors, clearly described his challenges and achievements and had us mere mortals spell bound. The talk, illustrated with an astonishing volume of work by a quietly spoken modest man of enormous skill, diligence and reverence for the traditions of calligraphy, the heraldic arts and the materials employed, was a joy to witness.

Jo Turner