Chronicle are a group of five poets – Rob Knee, Tim Lenton, James Knox Whittet, Caroline Gilfillan and Kay Riggs – who write and perform material based on the history and letter-writing of the famous Paston family of Norfolk.
Four of us – Rob, Tim, Caroline and Kay – got together for a 2009 project organised by the Paston Heritage Society to produce a lavish hand-made book with artwork and poetry responding to the Paston Letters, most of which were written in the 15th century.
After that we created a performance based largely on the first Margaret Paston. Consisting of poems, songs, dialogue, monologue and excerpts from the letters themselves, it was performed in Norwich at St Peter Hungate (the parish church of the Pastons in the 15th century) and Dragon Hall (the ancient merchant's hall with which the Pastons would have been familiar). We also performed a version of it at Mannington Hall.
Caroline is now based in the Lake District, and Kay has stepped back from full involvement, but we have been joined by acclaimed poet James Knox Whittet. James lives in Norfolk but was born and brought up in the Hebridean island of Islay. He was educated at Newbattle Abbey College and Cambridge University. He has edited anthologies of both island poetry and prose, and his poetry has won awards from the Suffolk Poetry Society, the Neil Gunn Trust, the Society of Authors and Highland Arts. He is a Hawthornden Fellow and President of the Suffolk Poetry Society. Rob, Tim and James are working on a new presentation of Paston poems, songs, monologues and letter excerpts focusing on the Pastons in a decade in the mid-15th century. At the end of 2016, through the Paston Heritage Society, we published a book called In The Footprints of the Pastons, which described a walk through Norwich, visiting Paston sites and included poetry by members of Chronicle. It was launched at St Peter Hungate, introduced by Tim Lenton, who edited it. For details of this, visit the Paston Heritage Society site.
Caroline, Rob and Tim performed their new series of poetry, prose and songs at Oxnead Hall, near Buxton in Norfolk, on September 26 as part of the 21st birthday celebrations of the Paston Heritage Society. At the same time we launched the book Oxnead: A Paston Treasure. Although this new project covered much of the 300-year story of the Pastons, the main emphasis was on the later, lesser known years when the Pastons achieved position, wealth and status – and what happened, surprisingly, after that. Thanks go to the Aspinalls for permission to use the hall and gardens and to invite about 85 guests. The day was warm and sunny and the food (by PHS members) equally seductive. The performance was enhanced by stunning costumes made by Penny Knee. For pictures, click here.
We performed an abridged version of Margaret Paston – a Norfolk Heroine at the launch of a big, three-month exhibition – The Pastons and the Pursuit of Power – at the Norfolk Record Office on October 21, 2013. See pastonheritage.co.uk. We last performed the full version on Friday, October 18, 2013 at Cromer Community Centre, at the invitation of the Friends of Cromer Museum, and got our best response yet, with well over 50 people in the audience, and a question-and-answer session afterwards.
The full performance is now available on CD, at only £5. Please contact us if you would like to purchase a copy (e-mail address below).
Both books, Oxnead: A Paston Treasure and the earlier Another Country, are also available for £5 each.
We can be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org