On Wednesday I had a really good meeting with Steven Baily of Portsmouth City Council and Michael Gunton, Senior Archivist of The Conan Doyle Collection in Portsmouth Library. It was a really great afternoon but I have a confession to make – I have barely read any of Conan Doyle’s work and Sherlock Holmes never appealed to me in the past.
But it did for Richard Lancelyn Green. You can read about him more here but I’ll sum him up for you just in case you can’t be bothered to click on the link. Lancelyn Green was (he committed suicide at fifty) the greatest collector of Arthur Conan Doyle’s work and an expert and scholar on his life. He was a little on the obsessed side but hell, everyone has to have a hobby so kudos to him; because this collection is so vast and so impressive it’s a shame that people aren’t aware of its importance for Portsmouth.
Conan Doyle, settled in Portsmouth with the equivalent of £900 quid and a great degree of ambition. He set up a medical practice on Elm Grove which gradually became successful. This allowed him to do a few key things, join the old version of Portsmouth Football Club as a goalkeeper, get married and knock out a little book called A Study in Scarlet featuring a character called Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes has become pretty popular as you may have noticed.
Richard Lancelyn Green, devoted his time to cataloguing Conan Doyles life. It now resides wholly in Portsmouth which is fantastic for the city; except as far as I’m aware very few people are aware of its existence.
There are dreams/plans for Portsmouth to have a permanent Arthur Conan Doyle centre so that we are basically the Sherlock Holmes City of Awesome Win. The impact of a centre such as that cannot be stressed enough. The population of Portsmouth are already too hard on themselves about everything – we’re almost the most British of British people in that we very rarely celebrate the amazing things in our city and perpetually describe our city with a negative outlook. This negativity is what needs to be combated on every front and there are certainly enough good ideas available to make this happen. Individual enterprises have regenerated the feel of whole areas of the city but this momentum cannot be allowed to stop.
With any luck, an Arthur Conan Doyle Centre (or ACDC as I’ve coined it), will be one of the many things that becomes a reality in the city. At the very least call it the Sherlock Holmes Centre and you will have thousands of people flocking here. As a brand, Sherlock Holmes is a power house and we already have all the history locked up in storage having been diligently organised by the team at the library. There’s already an excellent exhibit in the City Museum but something as brilliant as this collection will need a proper centre to really do the collection, and the city, justice.
It will take a lot of hard work but it will happen as long as the right people push it forwards.