Barrister’s best…

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Best books, top tracks, fabulous films, artistic authorities and an essential: Counsel invites barristers to share the cultural influences in their lives. In this issue, we talk to Lynne Townley, who is the new Chair of the Association of Women Barristers. Lynne is currently teaching on the Bar Professional Training Course at City Law School, University of London. She is also a trustee of a charity campaigning against honour-based abuse and forced marriage. Lynne has recently appeared in court as a cultural expert witness in relation to the operation of familial codes of honour.


Tell us about any books or poems that have inspired, engaged or comforted you and why

For comfort – Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8: ‘To every thing there is a season, and a time and a purpose under heaven...’ I find life changes pretty unsettling, so here is a reminder that change is a part of life. This was one of the readings at Rachel Lawrence’s memorial service in 2013. For those at the Bar who miss Rachel like I do, her positive attitude towards life and her determination to live every day to the full is fondly remembered.

For inspiration – a Google search says that this one constantly appears in ‘the top 15 naughtiest verses that you wouldn’t believe came from the Bible’ – the Song of Solomon 1:11, a bride’s confession of love. Part of it reads (depending on the translation): ‘We will make for you ornaments of gold with silver accents.’ I have had this verse engraved, in Hebrew, on a bracelet that I often wear. Why? Many reasons. I adore The Song of Songs as it celebrates passionate love as a right for males and (not-necessarily-married) females – unusual for those times. I also happen to be attracted to all things that sparkle! I once discussed this verse with a Rabbi. I think he was possibly humouring me when he said that one possible translation might allude to alchemy. Turning silver into gold. That, for me, symbolises eternal optimism.

Honourable mentions for some of my favourite books: Wuthering Heights (I can’t resist passion and a Gothic novel) and Anne Rice’s Interview With The Vampire (pure self-indulgence on my part – also a delightful film if you like this sort of thing – an acquired taste, so to speak, especially when discussing vampires). Any of Dominick Dunne’s trial observations (he covered many, including those of the Menendez brothers and OJ Simpson). Dunne was a film producer, whose interest in the law followed from the tragic death of his daughter at the hands of an abusive partner. Dunne’s observations are informed by his position as a grieving father. Having prosecuted a large number of domestic violence cases, I have huge admiration for both Dunne and his work.

What are your musical top picks?

Ravel’s Balero as played by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Valery Gergiev. This version is spectacular (visually as well – see YouTube). I include it here because for me it represents being on horse-back, one of the great loves of my life! Tchaikovsky’s Dance of the Little Swans (Swan Lake) – the combination of the music and the sweet and beautiful dance of the four cygnets leaves me tearful! I am in awe of the strength and grace of dancers. I also happen to adore swans. They became an important symbol of resilience for me when I was recovering from an illness a few years ago.

Works of art or films that resonate with you?

Grant Wood’s American Gothic is entrancing. It’s slightly menacing and I find myself wondering what they have been up to with that garden-fork in the barn…

I am ever so slightly obsessed with the leaded-glass artwork of Louis Comfort Tiffany. There is a fascinating story about how the glass came to be rescued from Tiffany’s abandoned Laurelton Hall estate on Long Island and taken to Winter Park, Florida where it is now displayed in the Morse Museum of American Art. My favourite piece is View of Oyster Bay and usually on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Films: Another Country – Rupert Everett’s character is stoic in the face of a severe (unjustified) caning in an unidentified English public school in the 1930s, sensitive and loyal in the face of betrayal and hypocrisy. To Kill A Mockingbird – it would be wonderful to be able to say that miscarriages of justice don’t happen today, but unfortunately...

What pieces of architecture stand out?

The Alhambra Palace, Granada (sublime); Boldt Castle, Thousand Islands, New York (an ode to love constructed on an island in the St Lawrence river, abandoned following tragedy, recently restored); The Lost Gardens of Heligan (especially the Italian Garden with the adorable cherub fountain); and The Walks of Gray’s Inn (never really noticed Gray’s Inn before I was lucky enough to work there, not meaning to be unfaithful to my own Inn, Middle, of course).

And your one luxury item for a long court haul?

Crème de la Mer moisturiser – with added SPF please if it’s on a desert island (ever the optimist)!

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