1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what brought you to Ludlow?
I started singing in Church choirs from the age of 7 and then it was a natural progression to take up the organ. I am from Bristol originally and met my husband 21 years ago, he’s the organist for Hereford Cathedral. He was appointed 20 years ago so we moved here to the Welsh Marches and then eventually the job came up at Ludlow and it was too irresistible. I am the 52nd organist since 1492! I have been here nearly 12 years now.
2. There’s something to do with you and gin, tell us more…
I tend to have a creative streak and I come from a family who have always been entrepreneurial. I enjoy cooking and 10 months ago I had the idea I would try and work out how to make gin. I wanted to make it properly from scratch with no artificial colours and preservatives and link it in with where I am working in Ludlow.
3. Can you build a picture of how your passions of music, drink and conservation tie together?
I also come from a family of stonemasons and I was offered a job in an architect’s practice and so I retrained. I have had a love of historic buildings since I was a little boy, I guess because I sang in churches and so I have always enjoyed church architectural work. When I came to Ludlow in 2007, it was a natural progression to look after the building here as well.
4. Finish the sentence for us: ‘since being the director of music at St. Laurence’s Church, one of the most satisfactory things I have accomplished is…’
That’s a difficult one! There’s a wonderful thing about music, it’s very different from art because it’s only there for a brief second and you can’t touch it and it’s only experienced by individuals. But the one thing I love is the legacy we leave to children and young people who work with us in the choir here. Only this week, I have been in touch with three ex-choristers, one has just started at Oxford, one has gone into the army, they send me text messages, ‘this is what I’m doing’ or ‘this is a problem I have at the moment, what do you think?’ and that’s great. People had an influence on me 30 years ago and it’s nice to know that I can now do the same.
The whole thing about working in a place like this is community. It’s not about whether you believe or have a faith it’s about bringing people together and having a sense of community.
5. Tell us something nobody knows about music in Ludlow and Ludlow’s architectural history?
Ludlow allegedly has the most historic buildings per square foot, it has over 500 listed buildings! I find it very strange that Ludlow is not a World Heritage Listed site. If we were in Italy and we had so many buildings, there would be a real sense of pride. For some reason it’s just not recognised here. We are sat in the most incredible building here. I can see, from where I am sitting, one of England’s largest collections of late Medieval glass and yet, most people in Ludlow have no recognition of that. The five wooden screens behind us all survived the Reformation and the Civil War. Most cathedrals and churches of this size don’t have these sort of artefacts. I think it’s fascinating, this fortified town on a hill top and in many ways that’s why it’s survived because it’s unknown.
Musically, the choir of St Laurence’s is linked to this because once the building was complete in 1492, the choir and an organist were founded and paid for by the Palmers’ Guild. There is an historic collection of music which now sit in the Shrewsbury archives and scholars still read them. We get students who go off to Oxford and Cambridge and half way through their first term they write to me and say, ‘we’re talking about the Ludlow manuscripts’!
6. What is your favourite haunt in Ludlow and why?
I think it depends on what time of the day and what drink I’m consuming! I am a keen supporter of the independent shops in Ludlow. I love having my tea and cake in Carvells, I love having my coffee and gluten-free brownies from Harp Lane Deli but most people will see me eating supper or having a drink at The Church Inn. I think the Church Inn has a really great atmosphere. The food is excellent.
7. What is your favourite getaway within reasonable distance of Ludlow?
We have lots of little places we tend to escape to. Skenfrith is one which is just south of Hereford. The Bell at Skenfrith is a great place to go to for a meal or a night over. Last week, we went to The Ebrington Arms which is just past Chipping Camden about an hour and a quarter away. The Cotswolds seem so far away, they’re not really. Sometimes we like to stay local and go to Fishmore Hall for Sunday lunch.
8. What’s next for you?
We are promoting The Ale Wife’s Beer Fest. A number of my colleagues across the country are promoting beer festivals in churches. There are huge versions in Hull and Grantham. So we’ve got big plans for St. Laurence’s. Next year the pews will come out of the nave and be replaced by chairs which makes this the biggest space in Ludlow for people to use. Very dramatic, returning back to its Medieval sense. It’s a big, new activity for us.
For more information on St Laurence’s Church, visit: http://www.stlaurences.org.uk/
For details on Ludlow Dry Gin, visit: https://www.ludlowgin.co.uk/
or follow Shaun on social media:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ludlowdrygin/ or https://www.instagram.com/alewifebeerfest/