John Fairfax, RIP

Today I heard the sad news that John Fairfax, co-funder of The Arvon Foundation,  died over the weekend. I am very sad to hear this. For four years (2002-2006), I was a Centre Director (with Ian Marchant) for The Arvon Foundation , running Totleigh Barton in Devon. During our time there, we met John Fairfax several times. 

He talked a lot about the early days of Arvon, how it got its name (by chance) and what its early ethos was (subversive). He and John Moat had envisaged a kind of monastery-school-revolutionary cell  for young poets.  The first group of school children entrusted to their care were encouraged to go out and ‘get lost’ for an afternoon –  and then write about it. Later, they were sent out to sit in a ditch and write about what they could see, smell, touch and taste and hear. In the afternoons they played cricket on the lawn; in the evenings they made Poets’ Stew. One of these children, Nick Stimpson, later became the first ever Centre Director at Totleigh.

Running Totleigh was a great priviledge,  a feeling I share with others who have held the post. Those were some of the best years of my life – rich, rich, rich. But my relationship with Arvon is now ten years old. I first went as a student – and have been returning ever since, as CD, as Jerwood Mentee, as a tutor, as Relief CD, and again as a student of poetry. John Fairfax helped start something to which I owe a great deal. My writing career. Arvon found me my first writing group, my first mentor, Richard Beard, my first job in the writing world. It gave me an apprenticeship in my chosen field of  writing – which is what the last ten years have been. I am hugely grateful for his vision of this school for young poets. Not so young now, I am proud to have been a pupil.

I will be attending his funeral on Monday.


~ by moniqueroffey on January 19, 2009.

2 Responses to “John Fairfax, RIP”

  1. really pleased you can make it
    great words

    michael fairfax

  2. really pleased you can make it

    great words

    michael fairfax

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