Article originally published in The Knutsford Guardian (1.9.17)
AS Knutsford gears up for a four-day Heritage Open Days celebration, the woman behind one of the most hotly-anticipated exhibitions of this year’s national festival says the ball started rolling almost immediately after the 2016 event.
One of four commissioned works as part of an inaugural HODs project, Knutsford will be a focus of this year’s LGBT theme as the life of Alan Turing – the father of computer science – is celebrated.
In 1952, Turing faced trial at the old Sessions House – newly refurbished as The Courthouse – in Toft Road for homosexual acts in the Regina v Turing and [19-year-old Arnold] Murray.
At last September’s HODs event, after the building was taken on by Flat Cap Hotels, The Courthouse welcomed members of the public – many of whom were amazed to discover that Turing had been tried and found guilty there.
Knutsford Promenades chairman Sarah Flannery then embarked on a mission to celebrate the life of the World War Two codebreaker and computer programmer.
Sarah said: “By November I had had a meeting with the NT and HOD because by then I had got permission to exhibit the court sessions records, which we thought had got to be of interest.
“By sheer chance HOD were considering an inaugural arts project and they wanted to have something with an LGBT theme. Alan Turing’s case is one of the most evocative examples, and so from the get go we knew we would be one of the chosen locations.
“Bearing in mind that online since June have we know the shape of that, I wanted to make sure there was a lot of integrity to the event. I got in touch with people like Professor Andrew Hodges, University of Manchester, Kings College archives.
“It was so important to not just focus on and sensationalise the trial, but the fascinating later work. My admiration for him knows no bounds.
“I wanted to reflect that in an engaging, immersive way for all ages.
“We know a certain amount about him and there is a certain element that will always be a mystery. When you read the work in the archives you can see how he foresaw the digital age.”
Knutsford’s HODs runs from Thursday, September 7 to Sunday, September 10, with more than half the events focusing on Turing and his legacy.
With court sessions records on display, performances of a reproduction of the trial, and appearances from members of the Turing family – as well as celebrity judge Rob Rinder – among the attractions, Sarah says the net has bene cast ‘as wide as possible’ to celebrate all Knutsford has to offer.
She said: “KHOD celebrates lots of Knutsford’s other history and heritage, so we have joined up the dots with things like choirs, drama, film locations. It really all came together this year.
“This is the fifth year I have run Knutsford Promenades and we have tried different things to test the waters. We have a big vision to test them and see how they go. Knutsford will be on the national map with something that is great for the town.
“A lot of people last year, around 50 per cent, were from outside the area. The experience of HOD lets people become tourists on their own doorstep, exploring places you wouldn’t normally see free of charge.
“The programme is thought-provoking, entertaining, and we hope it will get people’s hunger to learn more. That’s all you can ask of a legacy event.”