June 15th 2019 and a literary festival for Sturminster

Celebrating Sturminster’s literary heritage

Something new and exciting is taking shape in Sturminster’s events calendar and I can’t wait to share it.

A group of townsfolk, ably led by Pauline Batstone (She hasn’t got anything else to do!) , and in part inspired by local author Terry Townsend, have decided that we need to better remember commemorate and celebrate our literary heritage within a wider context of literary endeavour, past present and future.

Last week we finally pressed the button on this going ahead so a date for your diary.

So we are announcing that we will hold a literary festival in the town on JUNE 15th of this year

Sturminster is unusually blessed with a tradition of Victorian authors who were either born, lived or resided in and around the town. They are of course Thomas Hardy, the star of the show, William Barnes also known as the Dorset poet, and the less well known but highly influential Robert Young.
Sturminster Newton-Business Form
Thomas Hardy as a younger man

They all look very mutton chopped and Victorian but seriously were very great authors all of them leaving a mark in the literature of this country, none more so than Thomas Hardy.

If we can get sufficient funds (and volunteers) for future years we aim to make this an annual event that sits alongside the Boogie Woogie and Cheese festivals that play such a large a part in our local lives and in putting the Town on the local and national map.

Activities at the first festival will be aimed at a range of audiences. There will be a special focus on creating a fun learning experience for our kids and plenty of activities aimed at involving all the family.

We want as many visitors as possible to come in Victorian dress (don’t worry all the volunteers will be dressed up and so will the performers so there is some certainty that you won’t be on your own! We are working on another local group and as soon as we have their buy in we will be blogging that too.

On the serious side there will be something for the dedicated readers of local authors and especially Thomas Hardy.

Events so far planned include;

• A fancy-dress competition for the best dressed Victorian child.
• Poetry readings and performance at named venues around the town – take a coffee and listen to well-known artists perform
• An evening of plays performed in the Exchange by the Hardy players
• Presentations by current authors in the library and Exchange
• Some creative-writing based workshops for younger children
• A competition for the best dressed Victorian family
• Curated walks around the town including a couple of famous locations to which we have been granted access
• Children’s Victorian games on the recreation ground
• A children’s classroom in the William Barnes school premises

As we move forward we will announce more detail on all these activities and some additional events. The idea is to create a fun carnival atmosphere in the town across the day.

Whilst there will be some ‘paid for entry’ events these will be kept to a minimum and most activities will be free. Hopefully in good weather we can see families in Victorian costume picnicking in the recreation grounds, visiting our local cafes and pubs and attending readings and generally turning the town into a historic colourful commemoration of these famous authors.

The team are also working on plans to have a permanent set of places that commemorate these authors that can attract visitors to the town throughout the year by developing as many Hardy, Barnes and Young related memory trails, location plaques, book libraries as we can for the town and surrounding villages. Ideas we are discussing include walking trails, access to books and souvenirs of our heroes, a dedicated web site, possibly some public statuary, perhaps a room dedicated to the three in the library or the Town museum. This would create access for our local community to the town’s amazing history whilst also giving the Hardy addicts out there an all year round reason to visit and spend their money with us.

If you have any ideas or want to participate in the set-up of the event please contact Mike Woods on 07968 213144 or email Pauline Batstone on cllr.p.batstone@btinternet.com