Pioneering women

Gollancz, Livia (3 of 7) National Life Story Collection: Fawcett Collection

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  • Subjects

    Journalism and Publishing

  • Recording date

    1991-11-01, 1991-04-02

  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home

  • Interviewees

    Gollancz, Livia 1920-2018 (speaker, female)

  • Interviewers

    Mowry, Linda (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 3: Never been particularly close to sisters. Closest to youngest for some reason. Never lived very close which has bearing. One living on south coast, one near Peterborough, most of family in Midlands, Vita in Chiswick. Talk on the phone every month or six weeks. Mother telling stories on the way home from synagogue. Emily Davison stopping King's horse in Derby. Her handcuffing herself to railing of House of Commons and shouting, "votes for women"; some of them got into air ducts and shouted "votes for women" which no one knew where it was coming from. Grandmother looked like Mrs. Pankhurst. Sometimes they would switch clothes and Mrs. Pankhurst would escape out the back door to be whisked away in grandfather's motor car while her mother would go out the front and allow herself to be arrested. Grandmother, Henrietta Lowy, was arrested in her own right and went to prison, and oldest aunt, Gertrude Solomon. Ona [Helena] Liechtenstadt, and a Southwark tanner [Joseph Solomon (1824-1902)] were great-grandparents. Synagogue not important. Stopped going at 13 or 14. Mother accepted that they would all go their own way. Mother was almost too liberal-minded in that she expected to learn from her children rather than believing they should learn from her. When war came mother no longer was able to go to synagogue herself; no synagogue at Brimpton, and not so keen to travel for it. Father did not go, except occasionally on Day of Atonement. Always had dinner at home on Friday night. Lit candles, older children had dinner instead of high tea in nursery (which was the custom right up until she was 15 or 16), parents blessed children. Enjoyed Friday dinners. Pork, bacon, rabbit, or shellfish never eaten in home. Working with father was not a problem, mutual respect learnt with age and experience. Hallé Orchestra did not have orchestral committee when restarted with Barbirolli in 1943; run from above. Some of the members who were "a bit bolshie" got together and formed themselves into orchestral committee. Disapproved of, though they had no power. Conductor said one day, "I sometimes feel you are not happy with the way we make music". She answered stupidly that yes, his approach to music was too romantic for her taste, and they soon parted company. First political ideas before leaving school (from home or father?). Member of Left Wing Book Club, Young Communists, and started a group at college, though it could not be official, went on demonstrations. [10:30] Felt she could influence the world, not only her own country. She felt she was doing something significant by going on demonstrations and using her voice to shout, "Save Czechoslovakia". In 1940 when the Soviets signed the pact with the Nazis she felt so let down she dropped politics altogether. Not political since. Emotionally still strongly left-wing. Became more rational in intellectual approach. Retired but still officially consultant with firm. They don't consult her much. No editorial work, just talks to people when she goes in once a fortnight. 3 years ago, saw retirement looming. Wanted to go back to viola, so took lessons on violin and built up strength to play viola. Now does great deal of chamber music, playing both violin and viola. Still sings, learnt to get voice into order without lessons. Did amateur operatics in '70s and '80s; enjoyed acting side and being on stage. As a child didn't want to compete with Diana, so never tried acting, but it came quite easily. Walking holidays. Last year: Nepal, Crete, Switzerland, Scotland, making a great party of it in first year of retirement, but knees thought she had overdone it. Wants to go to northwest Himalayas; has been in central and southeast Himalayas. Wants to sightsee in southern India, wants to revisit places she's been, go to southern part of the Atlas Mountains and into the Sahara. Goes with commercial party or club group. Most friends her own age have given up walking or cut back to 1-2 hours a day; she can go 5-6 hours. She is a person who needs time to herself which has been an inhibiting factor in relationships, always wanting to hold back something for herself. Wanted to be a mother but had hysterectomy at 46. Accomplishments. [20:00] Pleased to have sold firm to satisfy main shareholders and not lose jobs at the same time. At 21, played 4th horn part in Beethoven's choral symphony with the LSO, Henry Wood conducting (first half only; Basil Cameron conducted lighter second half). Solo usually played by 1st horn; she wanted it and was allowed to do it; did crack one note. Didn't mind giving up the horn because playing was getting repetitive, not so many conductors, had good innings. Worse was upheaval in social life. 4-5 years to build up a new circle of friends. Now and future. Plays violin, digs allotment, keeps a garden; likes vegetables and social life of allotment. Will keep singing as long as she can, will go on in her house which was purchased with the idea that she can live on the ground floor if necessary, goes to a literature discussion group, enjoys making up for not having the time to read during her years as a musician and publisher. Many social and educational activities for the retired in Highgate.

  • Description

    Life story interview with the musician and publisher Livia Gollancz (1920-2018)

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