Lucy Melvin, violinist. 2nd violinist with the Callia Quartet, violin teacher and Artistic Director of Chamber Players is also a proud mother of two daughters.
How long have you lived in the area?
I moved to West Dulwich in 2001 (so nearly 20 years of my life has been spent in South London), and then moved to Sydenham in 2006, where I now still live. I was born in North London, and my North London roots are still very strong, but my children are born and bred South Londoners, and we love this corner of London.
What brought you here?
Gravity! (As a North Londoner being pulled South of the River, Gravity can be the only possible explanation).
What has changed most during that time?
I think that the area has very much stayed the same, but how we see things is very much influenced by current situations. Before my children were born, I led a very busy freelance career, travelling around a lot for work. My life became a lot more localised after having children, and I was able to appreciate all the wonderful assets we have here, such as the Dulwich Picture Gallery, the Horniman Museum and all of the different parks near-by.
What do you most value about the area/street you live in?
I live on the most wonderful street. It is like a little country lane, which immediately takes you away from the hustle and bustle, it is very quiet. The street is lined with houses of different styles of architecture. My house is in the middle of a crescent of 1960s built townhouses. I love the modern style of architecture which can be found around parts of Dulwich and Sydenham.
Do you know your neighbours?
I am incredibly lucky in living in my street. It has always had a special feeling about it. The older teenage children would babysit my own children when they were younger. We have a Summer street party, and Halloween is something that all of the children have gown up looking forward to. Fireworks at New Years Eve etc. It really is like a little village all of its’ own.
It became even more special during Lockdown last year. We did concerts in the street, and bingo and quiz events. It became a real focal point for us all, we could see each-other and enjoy some entertainment, all at a safe distance.
The most famous person you’ve seen or met?
As a violinist, I have worked with quite a few famous people over the years, but when it comes down to it, they are just every-day people doing their job too (right?). that probably makes me sound really self-righteous, but it’s true though.
Do you belong to any groups?
My work is with the Callia Quartet. 3 out of 4 of us live in South East London. Dorothea lives in Honor Oak Park, and Claire is also in Sydenham. Graham doesn’t live in London, but the other group which he performs with: Classico Latino also rehearses in Dulwich, so he is an honorary S.E. Londoner.
The Summer School which I run is also based in Sydenham, and most of the tutors who teach on the course live in Sydenham. There are many musicians here, and you can’t go far without bumping into a colleague or two along the way.
Describe your perfect weekend
My weekends before Lockdowns were always pretty busy, either performing concerts, or preparing for various projects which I have on the go, I loved the spontaneity of my weekends. Not having any particular structure, but seizing the moment with whatever was happening at that particular time. It felt full of fun, and adventure.
Since the slower pace which the lockdowns have brought, I am making the most of the calmer time right now. I bought a projector for a family Christmas present, so we now have a new Friday evening treat of movie night, with popcorn, all snuggled up with blankets and a big-screen movie projected on to the wall of the sitting room. Sundays are also lovely family times with a roast lunch, and a time of calm to prepare for the week ahead.
Where are you likely to be found on Saturday?
If I am not performing, then places I love to go to are the V and A – is one of my favourite places. The National Portrait Gallery is another. I love exploring the galleries off Piccadilly, or closer to home is the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey. I love variety, and taking a trip to see a gallery, or a walk in a park, sometimes you never know what will happen next. There will always be something if you keep your mind open and look around you.
What is your favourite place to eat?
As a Sydenham resident, it doesn’t get much better than The Gurkha. One of my colleagues comes from Vienna to teach on the Chamber Players summer school every year (before both COVID and Brexit struck). We would have a Gurkha curry most nights of the week, and it was delicious every time.
Coffee or tea? Where?
Cobbs Corner café in Sydenham is great for a lazy brunch. The iced tea is also highly recommended.
Where’s your favourite place to walk?
I love being by the river. I love walking around Rotherhithe and exploring the little streets between there and London Bridge. Then from there along to the Southbank, which takes you past Gabriel’s Wharf, which is always lit up so prettily in the Summer, and over looks Bankside Beach. Without being able to travel abroad this Summer, it was fun to discover a beach without the need to leave London at all.
When I want to relax…
With the return of home-school and working from home, the struggle is real, but we are managing. The key to this is finding as much time for down-time when ever possible. I have never prioritised this in my life before, but now I think it is essential. A hot bath at the end of the day, with the lights down low, and essential oils is the thing which is keeping me calm right now.
If money was no object..
My house is in serious need of repair. I love it, but there is so much work that should be done to it. Some of my neighbours have returned the original 60s look to their houses, and I would love to do something like that if I could.
The book I’m reading at the moment..
Dressed for War by Julie Summers. A biography of the Vogue editor Audrey Withers, during the war years through to the 60s.
My perfect holiday..
It would always be Italy. I am very lucky to have travelled a lot for my work, and there are lots of places that I would love to return to, but for perfection, it would always be Italy for me. I had planned a road trip around France, Switzerland and Northern Italy last Summer, which for obvious reasons never happened. hopefully we will all be able to travel safely again, and I can do that road trip soon.
My secret ambition..
Professionally, my dream job ever since being a teenager was to play in a string quartet, and teach. I do both of those, so I feel incredibly lucky that I suppose I am fulfilling that ambition right now.
Long term, I always imagine myself living my old age in Italy. Driving a little Fiat 500 around the Italian hillsides. I might even be persuaded to swap the charity shops of Sydenham for a stylish little Italian boutique, but I have a long way to go until then. For the time being, I am very much enjoying performing concerts with the Callia Quartet, eating curries from The Gurkha, buying party dresses from the charity shops, and spending time (when we are all allowed it again) with my friends here in London.
The Callia Quartet will be performing the premiere of Thomas Hewitt Jones’ Introduction and Allegro later this month, it will be recorded and streamed and available online for 1 week from 4th March at 8.00pm.
Please see www.calliaquartet.co.uk for all details.