2016 has been the Year of the Garden in England commemorating the tercentenary of landscape designer, Capability Brown, while during 2017 the Year of Literary Heroes will celebrate some of the greatest publishing successes and provide scope for interesting holiday adventures.
Central to the whole year is the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death and events are planned across her home county. Jane Austen’s House Museum (her former home) in the village of Chawton, will host changing exhibitions, talks, activities and other special celebrations between March and December. Chawton and nearby Alton will host a Regency Week (June 17 – 25) with special events including music, dance, talks, a Regency Day and more. Jane’s final resting place, Winchester Cathedral, will also be running tours exploring Jane’s life. In Basingstoke, visitors will also be able to follow a downloadable sculpture trail made up of 25 BookBenches each uniquely designed and painted by a professional artist with their personal interpretation of a Jane Austen theme.
www.janeausten200.co.uk; www.visit-hampshire.co.uk; www.visitbath.co.uk; www.visitkent.co.uk/jane-austen
20th Anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
June 2017 will mark 20 years since the release of JK Rowling’s first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, inspiring a global phenomenon, which put many landmarks – from Northumberland’s Alnwick Castle (one of the many Hogwarts locations), to the Reptile House at ZSL London Zoo – on the map as Potter pilgrimage sites. Events include a Harry Potter Film concert series (11-21 May 2017) with live screenings of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone accompanied by a live orchestra performing John Williams’ unforgettable score. Locations include Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Glasgow, as well as London’s Royal Albert Hall.
75th anniversary of Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five
Enid Blyton Entertainment and Hodder Children’s Books are teaming up with the RHS to hold a series of events to celebrate 75 years of The Famous Five, Enid Blyton’s best-loved and phenomenally successful book series, publishing in May 2017 with newly illustrated covers. The ‘Five go on a Garden Adventure’ anniversary activity will feature across all four RHS gardens throughout 2017, and they will offer family activities inspired by The Famous Five, including themed adventure trails and garden displays, craft workshops and storytelling. All four gardens will also be holding a picnic party on 11th August 2017, Enid Blyton’s 120th birthday.
100th anniversary of wartime poet Edward Thomas’s death, Hampshire
A programme of events will mark the 100th anniversary of the death of the wartime poet Edward Thomas, who died 9 April 1917 and who British Poet Laureate Ted Hughes famously called ‘the father of us all’. Thomas lived in Steep, Hampshire in the pre-WWI years and the area influenced a lot of his work. Anniversary highlights will include: a special memorial concert as part of the Petersfield Musical Festival (17 March); exhibitions of Thomas-inspired works at Petersfield Museum and the Petersfield Physic Garden, part of a multi-site exhibition of works inspired by writers entitled ‘Inspired by the Word’ (4 April – 30 September); an Edward Thomas literary-historical display at Petersfield Museum (April – June); and an exhibition of photographs by and of Edward Thomas at Petersfield Museum (May – June).
150th anniversary of Arnold Bennett’s birth, Stoke-on-Trent
Events and exhibitions are being staged throughout the year to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Enoch Arnold Bennett, a prolific writer with a remarkable legacy and close ties to The Potteries. Born 27 May 1867, Bennett was a writer, journalist, raconteur and wit, and the Head of War Propaganda during World War I. He also gave his name to an omelette! Bennett lived in France and London, but his native Potteries inspired acclaimed novels including Anna of the Five Towns, which told the social and industrial history of the local people. In early 2017 there will be a three-month Arnold Bennett Exhibition at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery including many exhibits never before seen on public display. Other highlights will include new theatre adaptations of his novels and public talks. Visitors can also follow the self-guided Arnold Bennett’s Bursley Trail to see local scenes connected with his works.
50th anniversary of Arthur Ransome’s death, Suffolk
Arthur Ransome, author of the much-loved Swallows and Amazons children’s book series, died 3 June 1967. He spent his last 30-plus years in Suffolk where he bought his much-loved the Nancy Blackett, said to have inspired the seventh book in the Swallows and Amazons series, We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea – coincidentally celebrating its 80th year since publication in 2017. He launched a million childhood sailing dreams by booking a sailing experience or an overnight trip aboard the legendary yacht,which is moored in Woolverstone Marina on the Shotley Peninsula.
125th anniversary of the death of poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Lincolnshire
Tennyson (1809-1892) was born and brought up in the Lincolnshire Wolds, and the landscape provided inspiration for some of his early work. 125 years after he died, follow in his footsteps on the Tennyson Trail. Visit Somersby, where he was born and spent his early years. Linger in picturesque Tetford, where the 16th-century White Hart Inn served as the poet’s local, or discover Tennyson’s ‘haunt of ancient peace’ at Gunby Hall, near Spilsby. Tennyson spent his childhood holidays on the Lincolnshire coast, where the high dunes, beach and sea made Mablethorpe one of his favourite places.
125th anniversary of the first Sherlock Holmes publication
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by author and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was published in 1892; the book was the first collection of Holmes stories, which Conan Doyle had been publishing in magazines since 1887. London is almost a character in itself in the Sherlock stories. Start with a visit to Sherlock and Watson’s famous address, 221B Baker Street. While it doesn’t actually exist, the exterior of their flat as seen in the series is shot in this quieter west London road, 25 minutes’ walk from Baker Street, at 187 North Gower Street. Other destinations of interest include The Sherlock Holmes Museum, a Grade II-listed building devoted to the detective. It features a re-creation of his sitting room, and a gift shop. The Sherlock Homes Pub in Westminster is full of memorabilia, including Dr Watson’s old service revolver and his favourite food, Cumberland sausages.
The 350th anniversary of Paradise Lost
This influential poem by the 17th-century English poet John Milton has inspired many great writers and artists, from Blake to the Bronte Sisters, Mary Shelley to Salvador Dali, James Joyce to George Lucas. Published in 1667 and hailed by the poet John Dryden, as “one of the most sublime poems this age or nation has produced,” the first version consisted of ten books with over ten thousand lines of verse. Milton’s Cottage in south east Buckinghamshire is the only surviving residence of John Milton and the place where he completed this epic masterpiece. It was also in this 16th century cottage that he was inspired to write its sequel, Paradise Regained. Today, Milton’s Cottage is open to the public as a museum. The three museum rooms contain rare books, paintings and prints that give a unique insight into Milton’s life, work and influence.
Verdict: The planned events are a great opportunity to reconnect with classic and contemporary writers in an interactive way.
For more literary inspiration www.visitengland.com/literature