Gifford's Ian is a first-time authour at the age of 84
Published: 24 Jun 2013 09:000 comments
Ian Arnott, a retired architect, has penned his first book, 'The Hidden Theatres of the Marche' - the story of how a tiny, isolated area of Italy came to have one of the biggest concentrations of theatres anywhere in the world.
Ian had initially been asked to research the subject by the Royal Scottish Academy, but it turned into something much more.
He told the Courier: "It started in 2006 and it was a music holiday that we took to the Marche.
"It was half a dozen private concerts and recitals and it was set in some of these restored theatres that I'd never heard of. As far as I could gather, nobody else had either. Nobody really knew where the Marche was.
"It's a very little-known area, even to Italians, and they don't go there because it's the wrong side of the Apennine Mountains. It's tiny - it's only 100 miles by 50.
"I got interested in the buildings and then I discovered that these half dozen were only the tip of the iceberg. It had more theatres than any other area of Italy in terms of concentration.
"I just became curious as to why this came about. It was never a terribly poor area but it was certainly never one of the prosperous areas of Italy. Why did they want so many theatres and how did they procure them? How can they afford them?
"The book, I think, sets out to provide some answers to these questions. And of course, focuses on the buildings themselves: many of them were so beautiful. As an architect, they interested me.
"The book looks at the region and tries to analyse the effect of these theatres on their population, and on their towns and villages."
Ian returned to the Marche, where he spent about two and a half weeks researching for the book - visiting some 35 theatres.
"Gradually, with a bit of effort and of course the web and the National Library, I built together bits of the story," he said.
"The parallels were really with the Scottish Borders. I was born and brought up in the Borders and I recognised the rivalry between Border towns; whereas in the Borders it takes the form of rugby, in the Marche it was everybody wanting the theatre."
Despite his first foray into literature with the 96-page, £15.95 book, Ian has no plans to make a late career out of writing.
He said: "This was a report that the RSA wanted. But it gradually grew until I realised it wasn't going to be a report any more.
"It could've actually been twice the length it is, because there was so much information. However, my eyesight started to fail, because I'm 84 years old now, and doing a first book at 84 is difficult anyway.
"But by then I was so far into it, I thought: 'I've got to finish the thing one way or another!'
"It was not that I decided one day: 'I'm going to be an author'."
The book, self-published through Matador, is available online from book retailers or at www.troubador.co.uk