Tourism is an important source of income for any city, region, or country. It was estimated that in 2013 tourism was “worth £106bn to England’s economy”(1). It should therefore come as no surprise that there is such a thing as a Tolkien tourist industry. For several decades Tolkien’s readers have been making private pilgrimages to Oxford; posing for photographs outside one of his residences; visiting the various colleges at which he studied, or where he later became a tutor and lecturer; paying their respects at his graveside, or even dropping in to ‘The Eagle and Child,’ one of his favourite pubs, for a drink. The tourist industry is now galvanising its resources and offering dedicated Tolkien Tours. In April this year Birmingham produced a new Tolkien Trail leaflet, which recommends visits to Sarehole Mill, Moseley Bog, the houses where Tolkien once lived, and the places he worshipped. This is an invaluable resource for those wishing to visit all the genuine sites associated with Tolkien in the area in which he grew up. However, a more pernicious aspect of tourism is also beginning to rear its head; locations which have only a tangential Tolkien connection, or in extreme cases with absolutely no link to the author are attempting to jump on the tourist bandwagon.
My travels up and down the Oloremalle this week have been quite busy! On ‘my day’ job front we are on stage rehearsing the opening two productions of the 2014 Glyndebourne Festival – Der Rosenkavalier (Strauss) and Eugene Onegin (Tchaikovsky) with the opening Festival weekend looming in middle May (when yours truly puts on his DJ (tuxedo for Americans!) and spends the summer thanking, and thanking and thanking all of the supporters who make the Glyndebourne Festival possible). There is nothing like being on a train from Brighton at 1am in your DJ and I-pad!
There is a small village in the heart of Ohio — I don’t know its name — but it has a connection to J.R.R. Tolkien and it was, in fact, the complete inspiration for Middle-earth. Don’t believe me? Just wait — one day that village will have a Tolkien festival, local taverns will name themselves for Tolkien place-names, and the county tour books will mention that Tolkien once mailed a letter that was received by a friend of a friend who had a connection to someone in or near Ohio sometime in the late 1950s.