Threshold



HANNAH: Ok, great! So I think we’re on. Ha, ha. So, I’m sat in my garden with my neighbour Rosemary.

ROSEMARY: I wrote a book about The Balloon Girl.

HANNAH: The document that I found that really kicked this all off for me was called The Strange Disappearance of a Lady Parachutist.

ROSEMARY: Ahhh right.

HANNAH: 124 years later, and I kind of find that extraordinary, that the reason we’re sat here today having this conversation, in the middle of a Global Pandemic, is because of/

ROSEMARY: /Absolutely,

HANNAH: /This girl.

ROSEMARY: /is because of Louisa. Little Louisa Maude Evans. I mean she called herself Mademoiselle Albertina...and it all went pear shaped.

HANNAH: That...yes..she was 14, she hadn’t been up in a balloon before. She wasn’t French. She wasn’t 20. She wasn't any of the things that had been said about her.

ROSEMARY: No, no. And she flew off in a balloon in the evening of the 21st, basically hoping to become somebody.

HANNAH: And then there was kind of much speculation about whether she was an opportunist or had been exploited…..And so she seemed to be really taken with balloons. As everybody was. It's the first time people were going up into the air...i think…

ROSEMARY: Yeah, it was amazing and a Lady Aeronaut which was again (gasp)

HANNAH: Because balloons were the rock and roll thing of the day.

ROSEMARY: Well weren’t they just, weren’t they just.

HANNAH: They were very exciting.

ROSEMARY: Absolutely. And then to watch this little girl.

HANNAH: Yup.

ROSEMARY: And the glamour of it. She would have been dressed in these patent leather boots and she had stockings and then this sort of trousers outfit. A sailor top. And a cap and you know they must have thought again, a female, a young female going up. So exotic.

HANNAH: The… the...Aeronauts were always getting into scrapes.

ROSEMARY: Oh absolutely.

HANNAH: At this point in time. It was not….

ROSEMARY: I mean they didn’t have any control.

HANNAH: No, they had absolutely no control.

ROSEMARY: It’s not even as though they were inside a basket they were actually sitting on a trapeze bar.

HANNAH: Clinging on.

ROSEMARY: Yes.

HANNAH: Clinging on.

ROSEMARY: Clinging on to the bar above and sitting on the trapeze bar.

HANNAH: Yup.

ROSEMARY: And then just jumping off. With this, not a parachute attached to them as we understand it now.

HANNAH: No.

ROSEMARY: But just with the strings attached to the balloon. And it was very fragile.

HANNAH: Yup.

ROSEMARY: So that once they jumped the strongs would break and then they would float down and hopefully the parachute would open.

HANNAH: And the balloon would carry on and be pickled up later on.

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HANNAH: But we have a desire to watch people do dangerous things.

ROSEMARY: And it was spectacular wasn’t it really.

HANNAH: Yeah, it would have been.

ROSEMARY: The people of Cardiff seeing this thing going up.

HANNAH: Yeah, yup.

ROSEMARY: And then they jumped and they had a parachute, and I mean in those days they didn't have the strings attached, like they do to guide the parachute down.

HANNAH: No, you’re very much at the mercy of the elements then.

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HANNAH: And then sadly Friday the 24th is, is the day that her body was found. And you know somebody who goes to visit the grave.

ROSEMARY: Someone goes everyday.

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HANNAH: Her story had played out through the press.

ROSEMARY: Yes.

HANNAH: At that point in time we’re kind of at the midst of, well, sensational storytelling and twice.

ROSEMARY: Mmmmm

HANNAH: Thrice, sometimes ,daily newspapers being published.

ROSEMARY: Yeah, yeah.

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HANNAH: Because people were so desperate for updates on what had happened to her.

ROSEMARY: Yes, yes and all sorts of rumours and conjecture.

HANNAH: Yeah.

ROSEMARY: That she’d finished up down in ...somewhere down in Cornwall.

HANNAH: Yeah.

ROSEMARY: And she had been picked up by a ship that happened to be sailing past and all these different stories coming back and forth. I mean it was wonderful for the newspapers. They, they made a killing, literally, on Louisa’s demise. Yeah, yeah and they kept sending out the newspapers, two or three editions a day.

HANNAH: Yup.

ROSEMARY: So.

HANNAH: It doesn’t feel that different, in some ways to the way young women are treated today. I think. By the press. So how much has really changed, in some ways. You know. You look at these newspaper articles or you go into the archive and it’s dusty and it’s hidden away in boxes and actually when you begin digging through it you go no, it’s really alive.

ROSEMARY: Absolutely. It still has relevance today.

HANNAH: Yeah.

ROSEMARY: Yeah, you just change the names. You know it’s the same thing with one of the film stars of today and Harvey Weinstein compared to Auguste Gaudron and Louisa Maud Evans.

…………

HANNAH: Yeah.

ROSEMARY: Gaudron even says that they had gone up in a balloon together in Dublin, which wasn’t true.

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HANNAH: Daring.

ROSEMARY: I mean 1896, I suppose, the start of the female, not Suffragettes, but the start of that sort of movement to try and get better deals for women.

HANNAH: Yup.

ROSEMARY: And Louisa, in a way, in a strange way, not that that was her thinking, because she wouldn’t have had the understanding for that, but that would have been part of it. That she was pushing the boundaries.

HANNAH: Yeah, absolutely.

ROSEMARY: and yeah, unbeknown to her, she did make her mark. She did create something.

HANNAH: Yeah.

ROSEMARY: And that, that was it really. Poor little girl. She thought she was going to find fame and fortune and in a strange sort of way she has. She’s found fame anyway.

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HANNAH: For all that was said around, kind of, blame, in terms of watching the event, people felt responsible for what had happened and paid for her grave through public subscription.

ROSEMARY: Absolutely yes. The far reaching thing is that people just didn’t realise. I mean it was just about entertainment.

HANNAH: Yup.

ROSEMARY: And about thousands coming and about money. I mean money, again, was the thing that is no different to today, is it really? So it had a profound effect on the council, I mean, they were blamed. Finances drop, people stop going to The Exhibition, numbers decreased and then the ramifications that happened afterwards, you know, but….

HANNAH: Yup.

ROSEMARY: It was all about the immediacy of what you can do and yeah, yeah, so….I suppose it does relate to today so much. Yes. So narrow and shallow and money oriented and yup.

HANNAH: Yup and it was kind of the start of all that or…..yeah.

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