Josh Mines, Deputy Editor, gossips with J.K Rowling about her inspirations (sort of)….
Exeter isn’t without its share of famous alumni. From the musical genius of Thom Yorke to the trolling talent of Katie Hopkins, few other Unis can boast such an extensive repertoire of celebrity ex-students. However, often one name is mentioned before anyone else’s on this list: J K Rowling. Not only is she probably the most famous face to have graced Exeter’s campus, but the Harry Potter series, and the locations that Harry and his chums frequent are often rumoured to be based on places we all know and love down here in Devon.
Though many have speculated about the likeness of the leaky cauldron to firehouse, or Diagon Alley to Gandhi Street, I wanted to get to the bottom of this mystery once and for all. So I got in touch with J K herself to get the low down on which places are witch in Exeter.
We began discussing her experiences as a fresher. “Most of my best nights in first year were spent down at Moz for sure. In fact, most of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was written in a booth by the second floor bar. That was the year I earned the nickname ‘V. K. Rowling, if I can recall correctly’”. Intrigued to know more, I pried further. Could Mosaic really be the basis for some of Rowling’s most loved literary locations? “Well I guess the Three Broomsticks was inspired from Moz. They’re both loud and sweaty, although I reckon the Three Broomsticks would probably smell more of Fire whiskey than jager bombs. I can imagine Ron and Harry enjoying a cheeky butter beer bolt from time to time though”.
Sites on campus, Rowling told me, were also influential in inspiring some of the most well-known places in her fictional universe. “I remember first going into old Lafrowda and thinking it was pretty much exactly like a prison cell. The whitefish, the bare bricks and the labyrinthine walls gave me the perfect image for what Azkaban would be like. As for the dementors, well I think we’ve all felt like sucking someone’s soul out of their mouth after a particularly heavy night on the lash from time to time”.
There was even mention of Duryard being like the forbidden forest: a mysterious place away from campus that students never visit unless they absolutely have to (although Duryard has a striking lack of centaurs and fawns gambling about its forest).
So it seems even some of the most inconspicuous campus buildings hold some kind of importance in J K’s head. As our conversation came to a close, I couldn’t help wondering about the truth behind what she was saying. Why does an imaginary place in a fictional world have to bear any resemblance to somewhere that actually does exist? Perhaps it’s best to just enjoy the illusion of literature and not be so concerned about where places in the story could be rooted in the real world. Saying that, I don’t think I’ll ever look at Mosaic in the same way again.