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Surrey’s Lark’s Ascending

Welcome to March issue, which heralds spring with expert advice on how to freshen our interiors and launches our Surrey T&L Short Story Competition – the third – following the popularity of the first two.

It always heartens me to feature upbeat stories about the people and places in our area and this issue features two such stories, in particular – one a reminder of our proud cultural heritage, the other an upbeat report on how one Surrey town is beating the recession and enjoying a healthy return to full trading.

In previewing the annual Leith Hill Musical Festival – itself one of Surrey’s proudest boasts – we find that not only is the legacy of the Vaughan Williams family in safe hands, but it is also being built on a broader base, for posterity. Ralph Vaughan Williams was the festival’s conductor from 1905 until 1954 and he grew up in Leith Hill Place from the age of two, and inherited it in 1944 after the death of his brother. He lived on in the house for a short time before giving it to the National Trust. Last summer the Trust opened it up to the public for the first time and curious visitors duly obliged in their thousands. It is re-opening for second season in April and all signs point to its future development as a living museum to the composer’s memory, with live concerts of its own. It’s great to hear that RVW’s Lark is once more ascending – but why has it taken so long to get off the ground?

Our focus on Epsom in this issue shows us a vibrant town centre, epitomised by the Ashley Centre, which has no vacant units – in contrast to so many other nearby town centre shopping malls. And we are reminded that the town has a young and vibrant creative input, too. The University of the Creative Arts and Laine Theatre Arts are doing much to put the town on the cultural map. Buoyed by its enhanced status as a university town, Epsom faces the future fearlessly, with the mix of shoppers, residents and students adding to its growing vitality. Surely, one would have to go many a mile to find a better mix of creativity, retail outlets, restaurants and entertainment.

Chris Wood is resident composer with Guest House Opera and editor of Epsom, Sutton and Cheam Time & Leisure.