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Monday, 20 September 2021

University of Bedfordshire launches Literary Bedfordshire

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Bedfordshire’s literary legends to be celebrated

The University of Bedfordshire has launched a new collaborative project, Literary Bedfordshire. It aims to celebrate the county’s famous and favourite writers through research and shared knowledge of local literary history.

Bedfordshire is known to be the birthplace, residence or workplace of authors and playwrights (past and present) of renowned fictional, factual and biographical works. Such as The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678), The Scarlet Vampire (1936), The Second Man (1956), Henny Penny (2006) and Home, I’m Darling (2018).

The Literary Bedfordshire project was originally spearheaded by Professor Alexis Weedon, director of the Research Institute for Media, Arts & Performance (RIMAP), and Dr Nicola Darwood, senior lecturer and course co-ordinator with the School of Education & English Language (SEEL).

They felt that a dedicated local literary project would help connect Bedfordshire’s schoolchildren with the region’s home-grown penmanship, books, plays and poetry. And ultimately help inspire the next generation of writers, creative thinkers and literary stars.

Professor Alexis Weedon said:

“I was inspired by the story of circus elephants travelling up the A5 from Dunstable in the 1900s who, irritated by the sound of the early automobiles, turned on a car and pulled off the steering wheel.

“The author was Arnold Bennett who is more famous for his novels about the Potteries in Stoke-on-Trent. It got me thinking – who else travelled on these roads? And what other stories are there? I bet local people know, or we could find out.”

Utilising the online Special Collections which have been sourced and digitally archived by the University of Bedfordshire’s Library services, Literary Bedfordshire hopes to bring together and align the works and lives of writers who lived, worked or passed through the county of Bedfordshire, including John Bunyan, Christopher Fry, S.I. Martin and Vivian French.

Dr Nicola Darwood said:

“I’m really excited to be part of this collaborative project. We have so many great writers associated with Bedfordshire – some well-known, others to be reclaimed – and this is a wonderful opportunity to bring people together through a love of literature and our local heritage.”

To kick off the project, Literary Bedfordshire has announced a competition for school pupils in Key Stage 4 and 5 to enter, based around an extract from the 1896 novel Clara Hopgood by Mark Rutherford. This is a story set in a fictionalised version of Bedford town, penned by the pseudonym of local author, William Hale White.

The project’s team hopes this competition will offer pupils some extra-curricular fun over the festive break before heading back to study their GCSEs, A Levels or BTECs come January.

The ‘critical response’ essay competition will close on 31st January 2021. The full details can be found on the Literary Bedfordshire webpage.

The winner and runners up will be announced by 31st March 2021 and they will receive Waterstones vouchers to spend on their favourite books and stories.

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John Guinn
I am the editor of The Flitwick Chronicle. This is an independent, local news service based in Bedfordshire. The Chronicle provides local news that is investigative, inclusive and relevant to the residents of Flitwick.

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