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Who Were the Women in T S Eliot’s Life? With Niamh Cusack, Lyndall Gordon and Noreen Masud

Here + There
three women

Arnolfini  |  £10 / £8 / £5

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Join us for an evening of performance and discussion to uncover the great women who inspired T S Eliot’s The Waste Land.

To mark the centenary of T S Eliot’s The Waste Land , we’re joined by author Lyndall Gordon to shine a light on the women in T S Eliot’s life, particularly the ‘hyacinth girl’ who appears in The Waste Land. In her new book, The Hyacinth Girl: T S Eliot’s Hidden Muse, Gordon tells the story of Emily Hale, an American actor and drama teacher for whom Eliot concealed a lasting love.

The lovestruck writer penned 1,131 letters to her over the years, insisting that these weren’t released until 50 years after his death. They reveal a romance that spanned most of his life, which greatly influenced his creative practice.

Eliot also had ties to three other English women when he was at the height of his powers: his first wife Vivienne Haigh-Wood, who ended up in an asylum; Mary Trevelyan, his church-going confidante; and his second devoted wife, Valerie Fletcher. All four women were closest to Eliot and recorded their time with the great author in autobiographical sketches, diaries and memoirs.

The evening begins with Niamh Cusack reading The Waste Land, followed by Lyndall Gordon in conversation with Noreen Masud.

This event is part of our Here and There/The Waste Land project.

Presented in partnership with

Niamh Cusack is an actor, whose theatre credits include My Brilliant Friend and The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Nighttime at the National Theatre, as well as numerous productions at the RSC including Macbeth, As You Like It, Romeo and Juliet and Othello. She has also appeared at the Old Vic in Dancing at Lughnasa, The Playboy of the Western World and Cause Celebre, and most recently starred in a Bristol Old Vic production of Hamlet. Her most recent television work includes Archie, The Virtues, The Tower and Brassic, with films including Four Mothers andThe Land of Saints and Sinners.

Lyndall Gordon is the prizewinning author of biographies of Henry James, Charlotte Bronte, Virginia Woolf, Mary Wollstonecraft, T. S. Eliot and Emily Dickinson, and is the author of Outsiders: Five Women Writers Who Changed the World. She has also penned two memoirs, Shared Lives, a story of women’s friendship, and Divided Lives about her mother whose spiritual journey opened TS Eliot’s poetry for her.

Noreen Masud is a Lecturer in Twentieth Century Literature at the University of Bristol, and an AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinker. Her research covers all kinds of bases: flatness, spivs, puppets, leftovers, earworms, footnotes, rhymes, hymns, surprises, folk songs, colours and superstitions. She works mostly on 20th-century literature, but makes forays into Victorian and Romantic literature too.

Lyndall Gordon’s The Hyacinth Girl will be available to buy from Arnofini Bookshop on the night.

You can also buy it from now. If you buy books linked to our site, we may earn a commission from, whose fees support independent bookshops.

Booking Information

This event is part of our new ticket pricing structure where we ask people to pay what they feel they can afford in accordance with their means. Read more about it here. Read on for the ticket prices for this event.

One free carer ticket can be booked at the same time for a paying disabled visitor. If you need to book more than one, please contact us before booking to arrange.

Pay It Forward £10

The Pay It Forward option enables you to book a ticket above the standard price, and will help to subsidise a ticket for someone who requires the Pay What You Can option. This option is aimed at people who are able to meet their basic needs and would like to help somebody else with the cost of their ticket.

  • Is this for me? – I have access to a regular and stable income and I have the means and desire to contribute towards making the event affordable for others and supporting Bristol Ideas.

Recommended £8

This recommended price is based on what we’d traditionally charge for a similar event. It helps us make sure that basic costs are covered. This price is aimed at people who are able to meet their basic needs and have enough to live on.

  • Is this for me? – I have access to a regular and disposable income, and I can comfortably afford the recommended ticket price.

Supported £5

This option is lower than the recommended price. It is subsidised by Bristol Ideas and fellow audience members who have booked at the Pay It Forward rate. This price is aimed at people who could do with support to get by.

  • Is this for me? – My access to income is low and unstable and I worry about meeting my basic needs. I would select a concession rate due to my personal circumstances.

No one will be turned away due to lack of funds, so please contact us if you have any queries.

Ticket booking is via Eventbrite. Please note that Eventbrite is a third-party service that is not owned or managed by Bristol Ideas. Please review Eventbrite’s terms and conditions and Privacy Policy as we do not accept any responsibility or liability for the policies. You can read Bristol Ideas’ Privacy policy here.

We only refund tickets if the event is cancelled. Events start punctually and, out of consideration to other audience members and speakers, our policy is not to admit or issue refunds to latecomers. Full Terms and Conditions here.


  • Within Arnolfini there are lifts to all floors and level access to all public spaces.
  • There are two designated Blue Badge parking spaces within easy reach of Arnolfini in the Mud Dock City Docks car park, accessed via The Grove Car Park. There are also five spaces in The Grove Car Park. Parking in the accessible blue badge spaces are free, and are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
  • There are toilets for public use.
  • Guide and assistance dogs are welcome.

More information about Arnolfini can be found on Arnolfini’s website and on AccessAble.

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