Sunday 15 February 2009

The value of what’s local

Here’s a half formed thought. On Friday I saw the play ‘Sabbat’ at the Round auditorium of the Dukes Theatre in Lancaster. Based on the Pendle witch trials of 1612 the play is a four-hander charting just some of the key relationships and treating fear of Catholicism as part of the underlying motivating anxiety.

Of course, any such play stands in the shadow of the Crucible and whilst I can’t imagine choosing to see the latter again, it’s hard to imagine anything which has its power and gravity. Sabbat is very much Crucible-lite. But it had a particular advantage for me. Pendle Hill is a familiar landmark when I drive over to see my parents. The main town mentioned in the play is Lancaster. And the play ends with hangings in Lancaster prison, five minutes walk away from the theatre and past which I often walk to the station. (I watched the second half with a pint of Pendle Witches Brew in hand, one of my favourite Lancashire beers.) Although such specific local connections didn’t directly enter into any interpretative judgements I might have made (although knowledge of the actual events did help me to ignore Lois’ potentially misleading comment: don’t worry, it has a happy ending!), the fact of it depicting a local matter gave the events a particular value.

But what is the value of what’s local (pictured)? Minimising food miles might be a good reason to favour local food, to prefer, for example, Hawkshead brewery beers (now brewed 7 miles away in Staveley) over others. But I don’t think that that’s why I do. Rather it’s the simple fact of a contextual connection, the opposite of general qualities, the opposite, perhaps, of globalisation.