Diamonds at the Lost and Found

Vicky Dawson, Book Festival Director, gives us a glimpse into Sarah Aspinall’s book about her flamboyant mother, Diamonds at the Lost and Found.

I can’t help thinking that Audrey Miller later Audrey Aspinall, would have been delighted by the idea of a Festival Salon in her name. She would have tap danced across the floor of the Assembly Rooms shouting “Let’s get this show on the road” which was her personal motto and of course, must be motto of Buxton International Festival after its pandemic pause.

Audrey would have sung along to Strictly Musical and known the lyrics of all the latest film musicals. But don’t be fooled by the heady love for film, music and dancing, Diamonds at the Lost and Found, a memoir of her restless childhood by her daughter Sarah, mixes darkness amongst the glitz. A quote on the front cover calls the book “unflinching, but with so much love”.

Mixing astounding stories of self-education (not unlike a Mitford childhood) with her Mother’s restless travel and a poignant quest for love and security, Sarah Aspinall’s shares her childhood in 1960s Britain from a different social place to that of Juliet Nicolson in Frostquake.

For those of our audience who know Southport, or who, like me enjoyed a Seaside childhood, much will resonant and make you laugh out loud. The triumph of the book is that Audrey and Sarah’s story unfolds as childhood innocence is shed. The trust in, and desire to please adults, particularly parents, is uncomfortable at times. However that contrasts with Sarah’s childhood precocity, such as when she invites Canon Jones from the local church into the house in her Mother’s absence, “We had an interesting chat about good and evil, but I found his views a little on the dull side, to the relief of my Mother”.

The book is choc full of transient characters, often very famous. Few memoirs contain both Clark Gable and Norman Wisdom, Louis Jordan and Mick MacManus (yes, that Mick MacManus of 1970s wrestling fame who once helped Sarah to make perfume from a Christmas kit) Bill Tidy and Robbie Williams, Aker Bilk and many more.

Our Festival Salon will take place in the Assembly Rooms on Thursday 22nd July at 4pm when Sarah will be with us to talk about her astonishing book and extraordinary upbringing. Adrian Kelly will provide the soundtrack to Audrey’s chiaroscuro life. Audrey and Sarah often danced and sang, ‘We’re a Couple of Swells’. Charm, resilience and the ability to spin a good story, are at the heart of this compelling book.