Simon Finch is the owner of Voewood, the Arts and Crafts movement mansion house in North Norfolk which recently hosted a fundraiser gig headlined by Wreckless Eric. Here, the Rare Book Dealer explains why it is important for the creative community to do its bit for local charities
I am a Rare Book Dealer who bought his first rare book aged 12 and was lucky enough to have discovered his passion early in life. I have had numerous book shops, mainly in London but also one up here in Norfolk. I have always found the world of rare books fascinating and exciting, combining discovery and learning with the thrill of a treasure hunt. Over my career I have been lucky enough to handle a wide range of material, from the First Folio of Shakespeare to the wilder shores of the counterculture. I was never in doubt as to what I wanted to do…I could not have dreamed up a better profession.
Voewood encapsulates another aspect of the same passion: beauty and art. The architectural historian Niklaus Pevsner described it thus: “By far the most interesting building in this part of Norfolk…a violently idiosyncratic building…some of its inventions remind one of Gaudi’s works in Barcelona”. High praise indeed but, I believe, justified.
I bought Voewood in 1998 when it was an old people’s home. It had previously been in the NHS and, before that, a boys’ school. Built between 1903 and 1905 with ES Prior as architect, it is one of the great houses of the Arts and Crafts movement. It was a great adventure to restore and decorate it over a period of many years.
It is in an inspirational and beautiful house which lends itself to hosting the most wonderful parties. Martha Fiennes and I got married at Voewood earlier in the year so can attest to that. During lockdown we created a kind of sixties night club in the cellars, Pink Lloyds, so named in honour of the Lloyd Family who built Voewood and David Gilmour, the guitarist of Pink Floyd, who came to stay a couple of times when Voewood hosted a Festival. Enquiries for booking Voewood can be made at email@example.com – Jane Davidson will be happy to answer all enquiries.
Over the years Voewood has hosted several festivals and arts events with wonderful writers, artists and musicians. It is very much something we will continue with. Some of the artists that have come to Voewood include Antony Gormley, Richard Long, Booker Prize winner DBC Pierre, Beth Orton, Glen Matlock, Julian Sands, Peter Hook of Joy Division and many others.
The Wreckless Eric gigs were in aid of the Tree House Community Cafe and the North Norfolk Food Bank. Where possible, we would like to support small local charities. North Norfolk may be very prosperous in parts but there is also a great deal of hardship. We are very grateful to Eric and his support Marc Valentine for giving so generously of their time and talent.
The creative community of Norfolk is diverse and vibrant, and it is great to be a part of it. I feel so lucky to live here and am constantly meeting inspirational and wonderful people who are either making art or who are involved in some aspect of its production or the creative industries in the wider sense. When I first lived in North Norfolk in the seventies a friend of mine, Mike Hooton, founded the Wells Art Centre. He put on some marvellous things but often there would be about five people in the audience. In my world of books we have, in my opinion, one of the best independent book shops in the country, in the Book Hive, which also has an innovative publishing arm and puts on wonderful events. The Arts Centre in Norwich has long been a pioneer amongst small venues. The Sainsbury Centre is a first-rate gallery and Jago [Cooper] and his team are doing exciting things. My list could go on and on. The arts flourish in Norfolk on so many levels and long may it continue. I am sure it will.
Featured images – supplied. Main image of Simon Finch by Will Amorim