This moment

The Southbank is my heart’s connection to London

You might be heading to Royal Festival Hall, The National Theatre, The British Film Institute, Foyles Bookstore, the booksellers under the bridge, the Oxo Craft artisan studios, The Globe Theatre or the Tate Modern. Or perhaps all of them. You stroll with families, tourists, lovers, skateboarders, school children, people selling The Big Issue, savvy City workers, and people for whom the arts are essential. Below you ferries, barges and various boats navigate the tides.

The last time we were on the Southbank was December 2019. We walked in the frosty, winter night, picking up goodies in the Christmas Market, sipping hot mulled wine. It was festive, all twinkle and lights.

Little did we know how the world would change three months later.

I hadn’t realized how deeply I had missed this world and how a small part of me, the part that locked itself up for months and only navigated the world through a Zoom screen, thought it was gone forever. The world had shrunk to a tiny safe place, the island of our house, and my imagination had shrunk with it.

Now, in 2023, as we left Waterloo Station I started to cry. There were people. Everywhere. All of the same cast of characters I left here over three years ago. It is all still here. The world had stopped but started again.

I was overwhelmed with the joy of being there. Sitting over a bowl of spicy Ramen soup at Wagamamas seemed magical, impossible. Walking across Waterloo Bridge, twilight lights reflecting in the incoming tide, was like walking into one of humanity’s great stories. This is what humans are capable of. For all of the good and bad. This is inspiring.

Crossing Waterloo Bridge

We wound our way through Covent Garden and Soho toward the Garrick Theatre, built in 1899. This, too, seemed extraordinary. It’s something that used to be normal, commonplace even, yet now feels like a privilege and delight.

At the Garrick Theatre

At the Garrick, we saw the remarkable Orlando, a moving and important adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s novel. A play about London over four centuries, about gender, about society, about desire, hope, despair, and love.

At the end of the play, Orlando is asked what she loves. It is a hard question for her to answer, but she finally answers:

“This! … I love this place –– this … city… This beautiful, glittering moment, which falls out of the sky like a steel-blue feather! Oh, watch it as it falls –– watch it turning and twisting like a slow-falling arrow –– an arrow that cleaves the air –– so beautifully!”

from Orlando, adapted by Neil Bartlett

This. I love this moment.

Author: Amanda West Lewis

AMANDA WEST LEWIS has built a life filled with words on the page and on the stage, combining careers as a writer, theatre director and calligrapher. Her book THESE ARE NOT THE WORDS was published in April 2022 by Groundwood Books. Previous books include The Pact, (Red Deer Press) which was listed on the 2017 USBBY Outstanding International Books List; selected for the 2017 ILA Young Adults' Readers Choice List; Nominated for 2017 Snow Willow Award; and listed in the Canadian Children's Book Centre Best Books for Kids & Teens, Spring 2017. SEPTEMBER 17: A NOVEL was nominated for the Silver Birch Award, the Red Cedar Award, and the Violet Downie IODE Award. Amanda has an MFA in Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. In her theatre career, Amanda is the founder of The Ottawa Children’s Theatre, where she teaches and directs children. She has developed specialized drama and literacy programs for youth at risk, and for children with autism spectrum disorder. She has a Certificate in Theatre for Young Audiences with Complex Difficulties from Rose Bruford College, England. In 2015, Amanda co-produced the hit play “Up to Low” is based on the book by Brian Doyle. As a professional calligrapher and book artist, Amanda is passionate about the history of writing and has taught calligraphy courses to students of all ages. She studied with Hermann Zapf, Mark Van Stone and Nancy Culmone among many others. Amanda lives with her husband, writer Tim Wynne-Jones, in the woods in Eastern Ontario. They have three wonderful grown children. Find out more on her website at Photo Credit: Marianne Duval

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