It’s been a remarkable summer so far for an old-fashioned story about some children who were allowed to go off on their own and camp on an island…without their parents! If not duffers, said their father, they won’t drown.
Arthur Ransome’s classic Swallows and Amazons has featured prominently in the celebrations of World Heritage Status for the Lake District, recognition for his contribution to the area’s cultural treasury.
At the same time, the 2016 film version of the story has been released in America where it’s been received with great acclaim…and some health and safety puzzlement.
Now a new generation- and older fans – can join in the celebrations of the narrative when a marathon reading of Swallows and Amazons will be staged on the shore of the lake where the tale was set.
The event, to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Ransome, will take place at Coniston on Sunday September 3.
A number of celebrity readers have already signed up to take part and it’s expected that the book’s 31 chapters will take around nine hours to read.
The event is being organised by Dr Chris Routledge who is head of Continuing Education, English Language and Literature, at Liverpool University, in association with the Lake District National Park and the Arthur Ransome Trust. Also supporting the reading are Stephen and Janine Sykes who live at Hill Top, Ransome’s last home in the Lake District.
It will mark the end of a summer-long exhibition at the Ruskin Museum in Coniston about Ransome, Russia and storytelling;and a further exhibition and series of activities at Blackwell, near Windermere.
Dr Routledge, a great fan of Arthur Ransome, previously organised a marathon reading of Moby Dick at the Merseyside Maritime Museum; a much longer novel, that event took three days.
“It seems an appropriate way to celebrate the life and work of Ransome,” he said. “We are delighted that the Lake District National Park has offered their site at the Coniston Boating Centre on the lake shore. And our partners at the Arthur Ransome Trust are providing marquees to keep our readers and visitors under canvas, in true Swallows and Amazons fashion.”
Dr Routledge’s 13 year old daughter Caitlin will be one of the younger readers, along with Elizabeth Kaye, the 11 year old daughter of Jonathan and Caroline Kaye, owners of Windermere’s Cedar Manor Hotel, who are avid fans of the Ransome stories.
Also taking part is Becky Heaton Cooper, director of the Heaton Cooper Studio, who is currently reading Swallows and Amazons to her six year old twins Alfie and Ophelia. “They love the book. They’ve not yet sailed, but we’ve paddled in a Canadian canoe to ‘Wild Cat Island’ on Coniston, so they identify with all the adventures,” said Becky.
“We have a remarkable literary and artistic heritage here in the Lakes and it is a pleasure to connect our family of artists with one of the great writers.”
Among the celebrity readers who have signed up are 14 year old actor Hannah Jayne Thorp, who played the part of Peggy in last year’s film version of Swallows and Amazons. The screenplay writer of that film, Andrea Gibb, will also read a chapter, along with Christina Hardyment, author of several Ransome-related books and senior executor for the Arthur Ransome Literary Estate. Also reading will be Ransome fan Christopher Wordsworth, great great great great grandson of the poet William Wordsworth.
(part of the LakesCulture calendar http://lakesculture.co.uk/lakes-culture-2017-calendar-events/)