2015 BlakeFest

WATERSTONES IN WORTHING supported a one-off literary event in Felpham as part of the appeal to save Blake’s cottage. The appeal fund has had reached almost 1/4 of a million. The Blake Society launched the appeal in 2014 in the Houses of Parliament and the Sussex-based Big Blake Project had been working very hard, running events including the first Blake Festival last year to raise funds.

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This event was the idea of Rowan Coleman, best selling novelist and winner of Richard and Judy Book Club choice and Richard Skinner Director of Fiction at Faber Academy, novelist and published poet who hosted a literary afternoon to raise money for Blake’s Cottage. We also published a collection of poetry inspired by Blake.

This one-off event brought together an eclectic range of bestselling and award-winning novelists, poets, and Blake aficionados to celebrate his life and poetry in the unique setting of his former parish, St Mary’s Church in Felpham. The parish of Felpham is where William Blake lived during the time he wrote Jerusalem. In the South Chancel wall is the stunning ‘Blake Memorial Window’ which commemorates the 250th anniversary of William Blake’s birth.

The line-up included readings and discussion from Forward Prize-winning and T. S. Eliot Prize shortlisted poet, Ian Duhig; poet Martin Malone whose debut pamphlet was described by Carol Ann Duffy as ‘breathtakingly assured'; singer and acclaimed thriller writer, Nuala Casey; author of the newly published Jerusalem: The Real Life of William Blake, Tobias Churton; Barry Raebeck Blake Biographer from New York.

An 'inspired by Blake' Poetry Competition sponsored by The University of Chichester where the winner had the opportunity to read their poem at the Big Blake Project’s and Big Mouth Productions sister event in London later that year when George Szirtes (who will judge the competition) and Kate Tempest will join the line-up.

There was the chance to buy their books and have them signed by the authors after the event. What was particularly thrilling for the organisers was the response of the poets as a measure of the strength of feeling towards William Blake and the importance of the appeal they have been inspired to write. Ian Duhig said, “I was particularly inspired by learning that Blake wrote Jerusalem at Felpham and began making a series of connections that resulted in the sequence of poems.”