After a long career in public relations, Dianne Page (Dipl History of Art, 2007; MA History of Art, 2009) took the plunge to pursue her passion for the arts via Warwick. Now with three novels under her belt and a fourth in the works, Dianne reflects on the milestones that got her here.
Why History of Art?
For years I visited art galleries without fully understanding what lay behind the works. In the years running up to retirement, I took myself off to Italian classes to gain a GCSE. Retirement gave me the opportunity to study again and learn about art history. And, who wouldn't want to study at Warwick? For me, the Venice programme was the big attraction.
How do you remember your time in Venice?
There are certain happenings in life that form major milestones. When I was 19, I worked for an engineering company in Switzerland and made friends I’m still close with after 50+ years. The same happened during my Venice term. To walk through the alleyways early in the morning to reach the libraries located in centuries-old buildings; to come to know Venetians who supported me with my research and live among them; to feel part of this unique city and not a tourist, all compounded to make this the second milestone of my life. Standing quietly alone on the Vaporetto (water bus) stop at Ca' d'Oro early evening, returning from 'school', a November night sky and the moon reflected in the Grand Canal. How lucky was I?
Tell me about life before Warwick, what was your highlight?
I would have to say the milestone of living in Switzerland. And after that, a long career in public relations. It brought challenges, but also great opportunities to explore different businesses and meet interesting people.
What inspired you to start writing?
After inheriting a mourning brooch, I was intrigued to discover what it commemorated. My subsequent research revealed a fascinating story about two daughters whose lives developed in very different directions. I loved The Cazelet Chronicles of Elizabeth Jane Howard, and decided to create the nom de plume of Jean Renwick and turn the real-life story of these two women into a novel, a family saga in three parts. Book three is still to be written – watch this space!
What surprised you most about the process?
My first novel, The Mahler Five, is pure fiction. I couldn't believe how the five characters took over my head. I simply wrote what they told me! I'm sure it wouldn't be that easy a second time round. At least with The Mourning Brooch books, I have a skeleton based on real facts to follow.
What would you say to someone considering an arts degree?
As a mature student, it’s tough to advise a younger person with many years ahead of you. What I will say is – if you recognise that undertaking an arts degree will develop you in so many ways, then you should feel confident that it would prepare you to work down many career paths.
There are certain happenings in life that form major milestones. When I was 19, I worked for an engineering company in Switzerland and made friends I’m still close with after 50+ years. The same happened during my Venice term.