Lies and secrets. Secrets and lies. All families have them. When Judy Simons discovered a locked box of papers after her mother’s death, she also unearthed a gripping family saga with secrets that had remained unspoken for over a century. Yet writing about the past is like trying to do a jigsaw when half the pieces are missing. This talk explores how we can discover the truth hidden in our own past. Judy’s research took her into immigrant ships, Manchester sweatshops, Victorian lunatic asylums and to Sheffield’s Paradise Square, once the heartland of the city’s Jewish life, where gangs of youths waited in the shadows armed with stones ready to throw at the “Jewboys” as they left cheder each evening. Drawing on diaries, letters, photographs and family heirlooms, The Northern Line forms a conversation between generations, part memoir and part forgotten Jewish social history.
Judy Simons is Emeritus Professor of English at De Montfort University Leicester and a Research Fellow at the University of London. Her books include Diaries and Journals of Literary Women and What Katy Read. She was born and brought up in Sheffield and for many years was editor of Sheffield Jewish Journal. Judy is Chair of Buxton Opera House and a trustee of the Girls Day School Trust.