The release of the film 'The Dig' on Netflix this weekend has been a delight. Whether or not you've read the book by John Preston on which it is based, or are famiiar with the story of the unearthing of this extraordinary Anglo-Saxon treasure in a field above the river Deben in Suffolk, it offers beautiful scenery, excellent casting and a powerful message.
The excavation of this important find, on the eve of the Second World War, was achieved by a Suffolk-born, self-taught archaeologist, Basil Brown, played magnificently in the film by Ralph Fiennes, who you can see interviewed by Simon Mayo about the role here.
Basil had little formal education, leaving school at 12, but he continued to read widely and to attend evening classes while working on the land. He learnt Latin, French and German and his studies led to him writing a book about astrological charts and being well regarded in archaeological circles.
Basil was engaged by Edith Pretty to excavate the burial mounds on her land at Sutton Hoo. She, too, had a passion for archaeology but had been unable to take up a place offered her at university.
The legacy of these two quiet but determined individuals is immense. And in these days when everything is turned upside down it's perhaps a timely reminder that, while school and university studies are currently disrupted, all need not be lost.
Certainly we can do all we can to cultivate and encourage a desire for knowledge in the young people we know, and to support their teachers however possible. And we have huge riches in the books and internet resources available today.
It's been great to see the creativity of authors and illustrators reaching out to children on social media, Zoom and websites, for example. They've offered tips on writing and drawing, as well as maths and history lessons too. Frank Cottrell-Boyce has been running creative writing sessions and readings throughout lockdown.
Young people have risen to the challenge too. This week a 14-year-old in Cheltenham was featured in the 'Guardian' for reading bedtime stories on Zoom. He started doing it as respite for his neighbours who had young twins and were battling Covid, but now he offers his service to any family each night at 7pm. Read more here.