We saw Stuart Maconie at the Ilkley Festival in 2009, talking about his book “In search of Middle England”.
He was asked which towns he’d least liked during his research. Although he had a lot to say about Slough, his very first reaction was along the lines of ‘Grantham; it has heavy lorries rumbling right through the centre, and it has no soul’.
Well I am happy to report that he is wrong. Grantham has, perhaps mainly thanks to the vision and achievement of Dr Tim Williams, musical director of St Wulfram’s, a thriving soul.
OK, there is much that is wrong with Grantham. We’ve only lived here since August 2008 but in that time have seen much of the heart of the town ripped out, thanks primarily I suspect to greedy landlords.
And, yes, those lorries - horrendous! If ever a town needed an east-west bypass, it is surely Grantham.
That finger of blame must be pointed at planners, I presume, although I personally don’t think they have done wrong in the siting of the large supermarkets and shopping malls around the town, all of which are part of, or in walking distance of, the town centre. Many other towns have them a car’s drive away from the centre.
But Grantham has a treasure in St Wulfram’s. Whether just to sit inside and feel the joy of God’s presence, or to marvel at its history and architecture from inside and out, it forms the centre of a marvellous little district that shines head and shoulders above the rest of the town.
And Tim Williams has brought so much to the town and its church, especially with the sensational 35 or so boys and girls that make up the Children’s Choir.
Tim’s performance this time last year was by the Church Chamber Choir and the Grantham Choral Society Youth Choir. They did Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace, and I found it to be one of the most awesome and moving concerts I have ever been to.
Tim excelled again, this time with St Wulfram’s adult and children’s choirs, including the truly amazing chamber choir, giving four or five hundred of us a memorable concert of choral classics, from the simply superb modern piece Sleep by Eric Whitacre to Vivaldi’s Gloria and Parry’s I Was Glad.
I was very glad indeed to have been there, and to see that the soul of Grantham is not just alive and well, but is truly vibrant and passionate.