2017 – Year of Literary Heroes

VisitEngland has declared 2017 to be the “Year of Literary Heroes”, in recognition of the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death and 20 years since the first Harry Potter book, to name just two milestone events

Jane Austen Image (c) Jane Austen 200 Facebook Page


Following on from 2016’s Year of the Garden – which commemorated the tercentenary of landscape designer, Capability Brown – the Year of Literary Heroes will celebrate some of the publishing phenomena that have helped put England on the map.

200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death
From March 2017

2017 marks the 200th anniversary of the death of one of England’s most acclaimed authors with ‘Jane Austen 200 – A Life in Hampshire’ events 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. A highlight of the celebrations will be Hampshire Cultural Trust’s The Mysterious Miss Austen exhibition, which will tour Winchester, Gosport and Basingstoke with special and unique Jane Austen pieces, including loans from the National Portrait Gallery, British Library and private collections. 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. And for those keen on a taste of Regency England, Jane Austen ‘Big Picnics’ across Hampshire will offer the opportunity to see some performances, try some Regency food and learn more about the author. The anniversary will no doubt also spark a resurgence in interest in key Jane Austen sites across the country. Highlights include the Jane Austen Centre in Bath and the September Jane Austen Festival, which will celebrate the bicentenary of the novel Northanger Abbey in 2017. In Kent, visitors can follow in her footsteps on a Jane Austen Trail. www.janeausten200.co.uk/ www.visithampshire.com www.visitbath.co.uk www.visitkent.co.uk/jane-austen

20th Anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
June 2017

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 of England’s 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 already in the planning 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. Later in the year, a new exhibition at the British Library, dedicated to the magic of Harry Potter (20 October 2017 – 28 February 2018) will be the first of its kind to celebrate a single series of books by a living author and will include previously unseen materials from author JK Rowling and the book’s publisher Bloomsbury, as well as magical treasures from the British Library’s own collection of wizarding books.

75th anniversary of Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five
May 2017

Cue lashings of ginger beer, as Enid Blyton Entertainment and Hodder Children’s Books team 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, bringing to life the much-loved values of The Famous Five: friendship, heroism, adventure, outdoors and daring. Each garden 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. The series brought rural Southern England and the coastline to life through the wild, outdoor adventures of Julian, Dick, Anne, George and their dog Timmy. Enid Blyton was a regular visitor to Dorset’s Jurassic Coast and the area inspired locations in many of the books including Corfe Castle (Kirrin Castle) and Brownsea Island (Whispering Island).

100th anniversary of wartime poet Edward Thomas’s death, Hampshire
March – September 2017

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 (there’s even an Edward Thomas Circular Walk in the area) 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
Throughout 2017

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! Born in Hanley and mourned nation-wide when he died, Bennett lived in France and London, but never lost sight of his native Potteries, which inspired acclaimed novels including ‘Anna of the Five Towns’, which told the social and industrial history of the local people. His novels are universally recognised as ranking alongside Thomas Hardy’s Wessex in the description and depiction of a specific region and the provincial life it embodies. 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 (including the historic Middleport Pottery, which is now the home of BBC’s The Great Pottery Throw Down).

50th anniversary of Arthur Ransome‘s death, Suffolk
June 2017

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. Pay your respects to the man who 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. And watch this space for details of Suffolk’s Arthur Ransome Festival 2017.

125th anniversary of the death of poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Lincolnshire
6 October 2017

Tennyson (1809-1892) was born and brought up in the Lincolnshire Wolds, and the gentle rolling landscape provided inspiration for some of his early work. 125 years after he died, visit the county and follow in the footsteps of one of our most famous poets on the Tennyson Trail. Visit Somersby, where he was born and spent his early years. Stroll through the countryside that inspired him. 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
October 2017

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. Now a popular TV series, 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 sure to be of interest to Sherlock fans 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 stuffed with memorabilia, including Dr Watson’s old service revolver and his favourite food, Cumberland sausages. Fans of the TV series can also take on numerous pilgrimages to filming locations including Bristol’s Sherlock Locations map.

For more literary inspiration www.visitengland.com/literature