Freedom Fields Park.
I was born in the now closed Freedom Fields hospital not far from here. Although I’ve lived a lot of my life over in Cornwall, twenty years later I’ve found myself living just five minutes down the road. Oddly, I’m not even sure where the hospital was which gives me extremely conflicted feelings every time I come to the park. The thing that’s dragged me here more recently (and which inspired my Come To Where I’m From piece) is the monument which stands in the park to those who fought in the Battle of Freedom Fields in 1643. Being born in the vicinity, and sharing somewhat similar republican sentiments, I’ve always felt a bit of a connection with these young men who fought, and died, in defence of defiantly parliamentarian Plymouth.
When me and my mate Hugh were younger this was the home of ‘Super Super Street Shop’ (Prime) which we’d often venture to to look at clothes we couldn’t afford and weren’t quite cool enough to wear. Later it became the route to my girlfriend Katy’s house. Nowadays it’s my home. It’s long been the slightly hip, metropolitan street of Plymouth but recently Tesco and the immanent arrival of Sainsbury’s has lead to a lot of the smaller shops closing down. Even Jack Chams (underneath my shared flat), Plymouth’s favourite punk hangout, has recently shut up shop. When hundreds of student flats open up next year even more of the heart of this fabulous street will be gone and, I for for one, will be extremely sad. Long live the butchers and its lovely garlic and herb sausages.
The Drum Theatre.
This was perhaps the first bit of Plymouth I really knew. When I was a member of the Theatre Royal Young Company I died a couple of times on that stage (possibly in both senses of the term), drank a lot of horrible imitation whisky (one part flat own-brand cola and four parts water, incase you’d like to try it yourself at home), and made an awful lot of friends. This was the building that taught me to love theatre. The Drum, and TR2, often felt like home and even had the same telephone prefix as my parents house in Crafthole (albeit with a different area code). I’ve always jumped at the chance to return to that stage (and thank you to Paines Plough for letting me do so of CTWIF) and hope I may get to do so again some day in the future.
Wembury Church and Bay-spent much of my childhood playing there. Later it became the starting point for one of my favourite walks which has a lovely combination of coastal path and woodland. I also came to appreciate its history and architecture and also developed a fascination for these lonely, wind swept holy places.
The Barbican- have always loved this medieval/Elizabethan quarter with its bars, coffee shops, rough edge and cosmopolitan touches –it teems with history, and when I stand and think of the seafarers that have passed through here-well!
Barbican Theatre and Theatre Royal-two very different theatres. I work regularly in both as well as enjoying their varied programmes. Memories, friends and moving moments-places of magic, laughter and tears.
My favourite thing about Plymouth is the water and the sky. I love it when they’re the same colour. We walk on the Esplanade, West Hoe most days – it’s just up the steps from where we live and we take our dog there. When I return to Plymouth after being in London for a while, I feel like I get my breath back when I look at the sea.
Gin Distillery in the Barbican….Hardly ever go because it’s expensive but they do the best cocktails. With gin in them. Had a good one called ‘Seven Bells’ once.
A literary night run by Rachel Gipetti at the Plymouth Social Club. Rachel started this night recently, and I’ve only been once so far. But there are writers there! In Plymouth! Lots of them! And the Social Club is as Plymouth as it gets. http://litnight.blogspot.co.uk
Royal William Yard
The former Royal Naval buildings at the mouth of the River Tamar are quite beautiful in an often-used-as-a-backdrop-for-blokey-period-dramas-starring-Sean-Bean kind of way. There’s a great bakery here and – gentrification ahoy – a River Cottage Canteen. On a clear day, you can also catch a ferry that will take you around Plymouth Sound to the Barbican. (On a not-so-clear day, you can also do this if you want but it’ll probably be quite crap). Oh and the Yard recently played host to an exhibition of abstract expressionist art by Timmy Mallett. Sold.
Plymouth Arts Centre
A longtime cultural hub for Plymouth, the place has been pleasingly tarted-up in recent years with a rather nice café, which, unlike the rest of Plymouth, doesn’t seem to have an almost-primal obsession with paninis. And the cinema now shows films only approximately three weeks later than everyone else – progress. It’s also a great place to see Chumbawumba play live (circa 7 June 1995).
A nice little restaurant serving genuinely alright, not-too-expensive food on the Barbican, one of the most picturesque bits of The ‘Muff. It’s also just around the corner from the Gin Distillery and the Dolphin Inn, an iconic-yet-downright-scary Plymouth landmark. Nabokov’s Joe Murphy is particularly partial to the ‘Three Way’ Chicken Appetiser, FYI.