AD20130318A moving docu-drama starring Harriet Walter as poet and traveller Clare Holtham.
Clare Holtham died in 2010 leaving a volume of poems which form an intimate, spare record of a very unusual life. She also left a mass of minutely documented travel material: clothing lists, itineraries, meticulous journals of where she went and who she met, hand-drawn maps. She left photos that she took on her travels - but very few of herself. The most remarkable shows her sitting cross-legged on the rough floor of a courtyard in Afghanistan, large glasses perched on her nose, next to a very handsome young man wearing traditional Uzbek robes and turban. It was the early 1970s, Clare was 23 and an undergraduate at Cambridge; in her journal she notes that her handsome companion owned '700 sheep, 200 camels, 25 horses and the same number of rifles'.
Clare's childhood was marked by loss and unhappiness, and her adolescence by dogged rebellion. Having run away from home at 14, her intelligence and determination to succeed took her to Cambridge, where she was a brilliant, but utterly unconventional student. As other undergraduates found their feet at University, she was planning summer vacation trips to Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan. Her poems are a moving record of her journeys and the happiness she found in the wild landscapes and ancient cities of Asia. The memories of her tutor, Jean Gooder, and her close friend, Felicity Rosslyn, thread through Clare's poetry and travel writing, to create an unforgettable portrait of the making of a poet.
Writer: Abigail Youngman
Producer: Sara Davies
Photo of Clare Holtham copyright Newnham College Archive
Photo of Clare's pendant copyright Abigail Youngman.
Thanks to Anne Thomson at Newnham College Archive, Oriole Parker-Rhodes, Joan Hall, Dr Christine van Ruymbeke, Philip Hague, Leyla Pureli, Neil Jeffares, Mark Jeffares, Diana Holtham.