Table 1 gathers together perhaps the most surprising cast of characters. Left-wing writer and suffragist Noel Brailsford, 50, and his younger partner, the engraver Clare Leighton, 34, are joined by two experts in the fashionable discipline of Swedish gymnastics, Anna Broman, 42, and Anna Kellgren-Cyriax, 26, by one of the two Olympians at the dinner, fencer Gladys Davis, 39, now instructing, and by the highly experienced former headmistress, now Inspector of Schools, Miss Elizabeth Stevenson, 61. “Formidable” as the French might say.
How did this table come together? I call this Clare’s table: close to both Vera Brittain and Winifred Holtby – they shared a flat together in the early 1920’s – she was probably the closest of the party to Margaret Rhondda and the Time and Tide network (though Noel would also have been very familiar to them all). Clare, herself a teacher, accompanied by Noel, may well have known one or more of the others and they make up a party. Failing that, the organisers might have combined this party of teachers with Clare and Noel.
And their conversation? Anna Kellgren-Cyriax was very much interested in folk dance and traditional clothing as well as destined to be a sporting gold medallist herself so undoubtedly will have enjoyed the company of Clare and Gladys – and of course may have talked shop a little with Anna Broman. If the younger instructors were not eagerly tapping the experience of the schools inspector, the elder statesman of the table may well have held court a little, if they let him. I don’t know if Noel was up for Swedish gymnastics but he may well have enjoyed meeting people from a rather different circle from his sombre world of politics and strife. If the events rumbling that day in Berlin had come up in conversation, he would doubtless have had something to say.
This is probably top of the list of tables I would have liked to have joined. En garde, Miss Davis!