It is undoubtedly true that the avowed intention of Warwick District Council to turn our town into a second division version of Solihull is ruining the spirit of independence and entrepreneurship which made Leamington so attractive to chains of retailers, restaurants, and supermarkets in the first place. Tories who live in Warwick and Kenilworth seem determined to inflict sleaziness in the Old Town and the likes of Nando's in Livery Street. I don't blame Shades for accepting the offer of six out-of-town Tories to allow their appalling premises to operate under an official sexual entertainment licence. And nor can I blame the chain restaurants for taking advantage of 12 months free of business rates, paid for, of course, by the business rates of the small independent operations whose businesses they are trying to destroy.
I blame the council because I and thousands of others do not want Leamington turned into Solihull. If we want Solihull, we can go to Solihull. But we don't.
We don't because Solihull is pretty much bereft of soul or character. We don't because Solihull is now a glorified shopping mall, a centre of conspicuous consumption and commercialism. We don't because Solihull doesn't have a season of international string quartet concerts held in a beautiful listed building which opened before the battle of Waterloo.
This is where I was happily ensconced on Friday evening, listening to the third gig of Leamington Music’s ninth season. And what a treat it was. The Zemlinsky Quartet (or, as we should perhaps refer to them following the example of the Lindsays, the Zemlinskies) were playing in the Pump Rooms for the first time, and it was a privilege to hear this extraordinary Czech quartet play a programme of Beethoven, Dvorak and – the highlight for me – the third quartet by Alexander von Zemlinksy, after whom the quartet is named and a composer, I confess, of whom I had not previously heard.
It is to the enormous credit of Richard and Veronica Phillips, who work tirelessly and I suspect without huge reward for Leamington Music, that they continue to attract bands of the calibre of the Zemlinsky, who won 1st Grand Prize at the Bordeaux International String Quartet Competition in 2010 and – no surprise to those of us who were present on Friday - the Audience Prize at the London competition. Although they play throughout Europe, their visits to these shores are rare, and Leamington should be proud and grateful that we hosted one of these infrequent performances, the organisation of which was as precise and seamless as the playing.
It is a side of Leamington which is not sufficiently recognised but which is truer to the spirit of the town than the new malls and the chains which have taken over the centre of the town.
It is a side of Leamington which is not mercenary but which appeals to a richer, creative and artistic milieu.
It is a side of Leamington which is not Solihull.
Today from the everysmith vaults: With pleasure and delight, I am working my way through the other Zemlinsky quartets.