Half-term and it is busy! The children’s workshops at the priory have sold out weeks ago, and I can only give my heartfelt thanks to our wonderful volunteers who make these workshops possible. We launched James Clark’s new book “The Dissolution of the Monasteries” last week and it was a very pleasant affair – lots of interesting people who took the time to listen, chat, catch up with old friends and make new ones. Sarah Spencer’s art exhibition opened on Sunday and again we had many generous visitors. I listened in on some of the conversations that ensued about her paintings and displays, and I am already looking forward to hearing her chat to BBC Radio Devon on Thursday, 28th October at 3pm.

Exeter Literary Festival is happening next week, a city-wide festival celebrating everything to do with the written word in its many forms. We have many wonderful contributors and speakers, and three of them will be at the priory on 3rd and 4th November: Rosemary Griggs will talk about Tudor women, Ed Fox about Tudor Rebellions (do you suspect a theme here?), and just to mix things up a bit, Lawrence Sail, the prolific writer and poet who has made his home here in Exeter, will join us to read from his new book “Accidentals” and talk about how poetry is something for many, not just the few. Michael Morpurgo, choosing the book as his Christmas book for 2020, said: “I would wrap up Accidentals by Lawrence Sail, with illustrations by Erica Sail. It’s a book of essays by a terrific writer and poet of a certain age, looking back over his life. Illuminating, gently funny, deeply enjoyable.” And, I am pleased to say, Lawrence Sail will have his book for sale at a discounted price – that’s my Christmas shopping done, then!

Last but not least, Halloween. Now there’s a festive occasion I find people are quite divided about. In its present form very much seen as commercial import, Halloween is actually one of the oldest festivals people in these parts celebrate. It harkens back not just to All Hallows’ Eve with its focus on our forebears but also to Samhain, the old Celtic holiday, when time and tide are balanced on the threshold between this world and the magical Otherworld, and the veils that separate them are thin. A time also for thanksgiving, not just for the fruits of the land but also for those who have gone before and paved the way for us, those who have inspired and shaped us, in some form or other. With this theme of thanksgiving in mind, we are opening our doors from 5:30-8:30 on the 31st October: we’ll have hot drinks and sweet treats, the building will be seasonally decorated, and Sarah will be there to tell you how her exhibition suits this time of year perfectly. And to round things off, David Heathfield is coming to tell us some folktales about this mysterious season and holiday. So something for everyone and every age to enjoy, either in contemplative silence, in animated conversation, or by listening to one of David’s enchanting stories.

I certainly hope I’ll see you there!

Until then, stay safe and be in touch, Judith

Dr J Morgane, manager of St Nicholas Priory, Exeter