I’ve never been to this pub in my life”: A simple sentence with a crushing sentiment. When JK Rowling tweeted last week “if you want real fantasy go to an estate agent” in response to the legendary Firehouse being snapped up for £3-4 million by PLC, the legend of Rowling taking inspiration for the Leaky Cauldron from the Harry Potter franchise took its last sip of the emerald potion Horcrux (for non-fluent speakers, that means it was brutally crushed).
Twitter user, danielRD_15 voiced the nation’s sorrow, reacting with a crying face emoji accompanied with the phrase we were all thinking, it’s “all a lie”. Already dangerously close to never receiving our letter to Hogwarts, this story shatters our last illusion about university. Along with the fact we thought we would be organised, find the love of our lives and get value for £9,250, we now have to add this to our list.
The idea that Gandy Street is the inspiration for Diagon Alley is frankly, laughable
What many people forget about Exeter University, is that JK Rowling didn’t like it. So immediately, the urban legends that Exeter city inspired elements of Harry Pottery are weakened. Maybe it isn’t inspired by Exeter but it surely has to be partly inspired by England, its quaint fantasy and stereotyping of an English boarding school-system is irresistible even to the most pessimistic of us.
The only strong cases for JK taking major inspiration is in the mention of geography of Devon, the drama of Dartmoor, the uniquely named villages like “Budleigh Babbington” named (supposedly) after “Budleigh Salterton”, and Ottery St Catchpole must have been somehow taken from Ottery St Mary. The idea that Gandy Street is the inspiration for Diagon Alley is frankly, laughable. Gandy Street holds the magic of Sunday mornings and seaside holidays, with its quirky selection of chocolates and jewellers, but the most supernatural thing there is the astronomical prices of the products. Essentially, Gandy Street is just a narrow street, isn’t it?
I once visited the Washington Singer building purely hoping to bump into Moaning Myrtyle and was disappointed in what was essentially, a pair of slightly old tapes. Though I did spend an embarrassing amount of time searching for Slytherin iconography.
Personally, I think I always knew JK wasn’t taking inspo from the atmospheric gathering house, because there is no mention of the Leaky Cauldron pizzas. My first firehouse bite was the closest I’ve had to experiencing the magical and supernatural, and that is too prominent a fact to edge around in this debate.
We believed that JK was inspired by these locations because these places mean so much to us
What I think is quite magical about this story, is that it’s got traction. We wanted to believe with our hearts that someone as prolific as Rowling would honour and love the places dear to our hearts and immortalise them in writing. We believed that JK was inspired by these locations because these places mean so much to us. Just like Harry at Hogwarts and Rowling herself at Exeter, we are coming of age in these Leaky Cauldron’s of life, and we want these places that mean so much to us, to mean so much to the world too.