Interviewer: So here we are today in the artist Sophie Axel’s – ehm – amazingly colourful home!
Sophie: Do you mean shockingly colourful? You don’t have to be polite!
Interviewer: Well, it was quite a surprise when you opened the front door.
Sophie: That’s how it’s meant to be, really. A huge impact of colour on the senses. Electric pink, brilliant blue and yellow for the hallway – in fact all the walls in the house are different colours. It’s so stimulating.
Interviewer: So would you say colour is the most important thing in your life, Sophie?
Sophie: Absolutely. It’s in me. I don’t pay any conscious attention to it, it’s who I am, what I have grown up with. It’s like an internal microchip. For me, every number and every day has a colour ; when I sleep, I even dream in colour. And I associate people with colours too.
Interviewer: I won’t ask you what mine is! I noticed before that you’ve even got rainbow stairs.
Sophie: Oh, the children adore them – it’s their favourite place to play.
Interviewer: They’re quite small, aren’t they? You’re not worried about them falling?
Sophie: No – they’re as sure-footed as goats, even the baby! Life is never without danger. I just leave them to it and they develop confidence at their own rate , as children should. They need to find themselves – specially if they’re going to follow the family’s artistic tradition.
Interviewer: You mean your family are artists too?
Sophie: Not as such, but we’re all very creative, specially the female side of the family. My grandmother was an actress – she’s still alive; and my mother and aunt are furniture designers – for quite famous international companies actually.
Interviewer: So when you get together…
Sophie: Oh, there’s no stopping us! We’re all very expressive in words, in clothes, in the environment we create in our homes .
Interviewer: Family gatherings must be something!
Sophie: Oh, you’re right there! When it comes to events such as festivals and birthdays, we dress up, find the best presents imaginable and then wrap them magnificently – oh, it’s so exciting – and we have huge parties. But there’s awful pressure to do something unusual too and even more pressure from people around . For example on Rosa’s third birthday…
Interviewer: That’s your daughter?
Sophie: Yes… I made a set of puppets to put on a show for her friends from playgroup. It took me days. Immediately their parents asked me to put on shows for their children’s birthdays too. And so it goes on .
Interviewer: And is Rosa creative as well?
Sophie: Oh, yes, she adores painting. My mother came to stay recently and I found them both in the early morning chatting away about the colour of sunrise. There they were, grandmother and granddaughter, talking about colour as if they were absolute equals.
Interviewer: Quite an unusual topic! So let’s talk about your own life a bit. I suppose you were a star student at art school –
Sophie: Oh, you couldn’t be more wrong – I was a total flop. At that time there was no interest in design. It was all introspection and gloom and doom, and I just couldn’t be moulded in that way . So I took off…
Sophie: Well, nothing too exotic. I went to work as a cook in a local hotel. I used to cycle there and the pay was so low that when I got a puncture I just couldn’t pay for the repair. So I offered the man in the bike shop a poster advertising his repair service, instead of money .
Interviewer: Did he accept?
Sophie: Yes – in the middle of the picture was this completely flat tyre and someone who saw it asked if he could use it to advertise a national charity bike ride.
Interviewer: That must have given you a boost!
Sophie: Yes, I had several important poster commissions after that, including some for health education. I’ve had some other lucky breaks too. I designed some gift-wrap for a stationery company, and a woman phoned who’d been given a book wrapped in my paper. She was an author and asked me to illustrate her book of fairy stories, so that’s how I got into publishing. In fact I’m just finishing a children’s activity book that I’ve actually written and illustrated myself…
Speaker 1: Increased numbers of visitors would of course be a great benefit to the locality. My worry is though whether we have the infrastructure to cope. I’m not really concerned about the bed and breakfast sector . There’s a certain amount of slack in the system. But what about transport?  The railway line was removed twenty years ago and the centre gets choked up with cars as it is in the summer, all queuing to go through the narrow medieval gateways which are a great photo opportunity but a nightmare for through traffic. Naturally the pollution levels are rising now from traffic fumes. Reinstating the railway connection would get my vote but it won’t be easy.
Speaker 2: I think there are some wonderful places to visit around the country and it’s my job to try and include them in our publications , particularly for our profitable export market. But it’s all a bit piecemeal, isn’t it? Take accommodation, for example. There are some pockets of excellence with great places to stay, run by friendly staff and serving interesting regional food. But you should see the pile of correspondence we receive from disappointed tourists. It’s generally about the mismatch between price and quality . It’s very hard to know what to recommend when we have to update our accommodation sections, especially in London. Quality across the board, that’s the way forward! 
Speaker 3: Well, I think we really need to aim to try to get as many tourists as possible . But, we should start focusing on different groups. One of our key tasks has always been to gather information from overseas markets and feed it back to local tourist organisations throughout the country here so that they can develop products that suit. Currently we’re thinking of marketing certain regions to the more mature, higher spending travellers  who could come outside the summer holiday period, in order to extend the main tourist season. These travellers are primarily people who love historical buildings, gardens, walking and other activities which can be done in the spring and autumn.
Speaker 4: I think tourism can bring benefits if handled wisely. One scheme which is close to my heart is the regeneration of the rural economy . By promoting traditional crafts and setting up visitor’s centres to see these in action, it would be possible to go quite a long way. But we need to consider the wider issues. For instance, what means of transport are all these people going to use to get here and where are they going to stay? Can we encourage only those who do the least damage ? I fear that won’t happen as short-term considerations always win. People fail to understand how difficult it is to reverse damage to our surroundings. 
Speaker 5: In this business you can’t stand still. We’ve done a lot to make the inside attractive and informative over the years, set up educational displays about everyday life five hundred years ago, redecorated the bedroom  where Queen Elizabeth slept in 1570. We also restored the eighteenth-century kitchen  to its former layout and we do cooking demonstrations for schoolchildren. This year it’s the outside. I want to encourage families to pay  to see our extended garden and zoo and the demonstrations of archery and medieval combat. To be profitable we really do need visitors to stay longer and spend more money  in the gardens, shop and restaurant.