My favourite place: Clive Ventris, Senior Props Maker

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Having worked at Glyndebourne for 29 years I’ve been spoilt by the many beautiful views, the history and the architecture. So, the question ‘what is your favourite place’ is a tricky one. My favourite place has probably changed numerous times over the years, but my lingering favourite is the bench that used to be outside Box Office.

Near the Box Office is always an interesting place to be, it’s either very peaceful or during shows very busy as people gather there. It affords good views of the whole building and also westwards down the gardens. It is also very much ‘front of house’, not my usual world of organised­chaos and tannoy announcements in the workshop. Sitting on that bench gives an impression of how the public see Glyndebourne, like the calm swan, without the image of its legs working hard and beating a frenzied pace below the water, that’s my usual view.

One of my favourite memories is of a time on that bench when I shared a lunchtime with David Hockney. We had a conversation around the time the ban on smoking in public places had been introduced. A keen smoker, he told me that he had been given special permission by Sir George to smoke inside the house when he was staying there working on The Rake’s Progress. He offered me a seriously strong cigarette and we smoked together on the bench. I asked him to sign my copy of The History of Glyndebourne, he found a photo in it of himself, Jonathan Miller and John Cox (among others.) They were all smoking in the Ebert Room, all of them standing under a sign saying ‘No Smoking’, he wrote in the book: ‘Back in the Good Old days’.

He was interested and appreciative of the fact that I had worked on the revivals of The Rake’s Progress, and he told me about the inspiration he took from Hogarth’s etchings. It struck me that our conversation, one between a world­renowned artist and a props maker was surprisingly down to earth and democratic, not something some people may necessarily associate with Glyndebourne, its fine art, candelabras and champagne.

I’ve had other conversations before and since on that bench, some equally entertaining, others not so, but I will always enjoy stopping for a bit and enjoying the view, as visitors see it.