FROME: A HEARTFELT APOLOGY.

Sometimes we get things wrong and sometimes, unintentionally, we don’t provide our readers with the full picture. To that extent we’d like to fess up to an incomplete article we wrote a couple of years ago when Bohemianmojo posted an enthusiastic and complementary piece on the pleasant town of Frome in the UK’s West Country.


The reaction from a section of the townsfolk was surprising and, to say the least, unpleasant in the extreme. Our crime had been to suggest the town, which had fallen into decline for a while, had then been re-invigorated by an infusion of talented and community minded people from outside. Worse than that they were people from London! It had been the presence of a mainline link from Frome to the nation’s capital that had allowed these metropolitan folk to re-settle in Frome while still attending to business in London.


crochetbikefromeWe hadn’t made this up, why would we, but were merely repeating the views of a number of people in the town we’d spoken too. The reaction from a section of the ‘native’ inhabitants (whatever native might mean) shocked us. We were trolled, threatened with violence and subjected to a relentless e-mail campaign by individuals who wanted us to recant that view of the town’s obvious revival. They wanted us to write their version, that it was ‘real locals’ who’d generated Frome’s remarkable regenerateion, all by themselves. They absolutely refuted any idea that creative incomers had played much, if any, role in it at all.

I remember Stephanie talking, for the umpteenth time, with one person obsessed with the subject and suggesting that maybe it was a fusion of locals and newcomers inspiring each other to change the town for the better. “Nonsense!” came the reply. No ifs, no buts just nonsense even though that is demonstrably untrue.

More shocking in a way were the e-mails and phone calls we received from two town councillors supporting our article and apologising for the quite rabid response we’d received. Shocking because both these public servants begged us not to reveal their identities or that they’d been in touch because they feared an equally vicious response from this ‘native’ demographic who proudly call themselves ‘Fromers.’ How much worse would it have been for them as they live in the town? We honoured their request but we have kept all the e-mails, both haranguing and supportive, if only to remind us of this cautionary tale. At the time we proffered a public apology for unwittingly causing offence to anyone in the town, which had absolutely not been our intention. Guess what, the trolling redoubled after what these people took to be a sign of weakness.

Anyway two years have passed and we found ourselves driving through the pleasant, honey-stoned environs of Frome again a couple of weeks ago. We didn’t stop, not because we feared a lynching, verbal or otherwise, but because we were bound further west for Glastonbury and its wonderfully placid wildlife reserves. (Ham Walls and Shapwick are well worth a visit, by the way.)

Coincidentally, a week later, on a trip to the famous Somerset town of Cheddar we bumped into a native of Frome; a ‘Fromer’ born and bred. He’s a professional guy with no axe to grind (I could name him but I won’t for the same reasons stated above). I related our woes at the hands of some of his town fellows and asked him about the ‘main line to London’ theory. He had no problem at all with the idea that fresh talent and fresh ideas had made his hometown blossom but he insisted there was an addendum to the theory.

“No, not quite right,” he said, “The trains were a factor originally, although the service isn’t that great. But there was another more powerful driver, which started about five years ago, and kept up the influx of incomers. It was the founding of a Steiner School in the town, which began another surge of fresh blood because Frome was able to offer this arty, creative demographic the style of education they wanted for their children.”

So there we are Fromers. Apparently it wasn’t just the trains; it was a school too. If only we’d know at the time we’d visited we’d have included it in our piece. Perfect, as Bohemianmojo is very keen on the biodynamic principles enshrined in the Steiner philosophy. In the meantime we’d like to offer a heartfelt apology to all our readers for not providing them with the whole picture in the first place. And for the record after further conversations we are convinced that the arrival of incomers did indeed provide the catalyst for a fusion between old ideas and new in lively Frome.

*image: Steiner Academy, Frome