Marlborough LitFest’s first patron, Sir Simon Russell Beale CBE, has recorded some readings from the Victorian Wiltshire nature writer, Richard Jefferies which it is hoped will uplift and enlighten listeners in these difficult times.
Sir Simon, a critically acclaimed actor of stage and screen, was knighted in October 2019 and now lives in Marlborough. He has visited the Festival a number of times, appearing in 2016 prior to playing Prospero in the RSC’s production of The Tempest at Stratford.
“As Patron of The Marlborough Litfest, I thought I would try to lighten the mood in this extraordinary time by reading from a local Victorian nature writer, Richard Jefferies – a literary walk in Savernake Forest, perhaps,” he explained.
Richard Jefferies (1848-18870) is renowned for his depiction of English rural life in essays, articles and philosophical offerings as well as being a novelist for children and adults. He grew up on a small Wiltshire farm near Swindon in the village of Coate, which heavily influenced his writing. The farmhouse is now a museum open to the public. Many local places feature in his writing such as the Savernake Forest and Liddington Castle hillfort.
The Richard Jefferies Society and The White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough award an annual prize for nature writing, cementing Jefferies’ literary legacy to a genre that has become increasingly popular. For more information: www.richardjefferiessociety.org.
John Price, Vice-President of The Richard Jefferies Society, chose the four extracts read by Sir Simon. He said: “The Richard Jefferies Society is delighted and honoured that Sir Simon has agreed to record these passages from Jefferies’ writings. We hope that this initiative will bring our local writer’s work to the attention of a new generation of readers, and that listeners may find enjoyment and solace in the extracts.”
The first extract is from an essay titled Wild Flowers, included in a book of collected essays The Open Air, published in 1885. It is a good example of Jefferies’ more lyrical nature writing. It can be listened to on the Festival’s website and social media platforms: https://www.marlboroughlitfest.org/litfest-speaking/ Twitter: @MarlbLitFest Facebook: www.facebook.com/MarlboroughLitFest Instagram: @marlboroughlitfest
The Marlborough LitFest Chair, Genevieve Clarke, said: “Everyone needs to be reminded of the solace and inspiration that nature can provide, especially if they can’t get out into it themselves at the moment. It’s wonderful to be able to offer this literary treat.”
The Marlborough LitFest is still aiming to hold its Festival from 24-27 September 2020 but is keeping the situation under constant review. In the meantime, the Festival is keen to find ways that its friends and supporters in Marlborough and far beyond can use reading to bridge the social distancing that everyone must abide by. The LitFest has already launched its Love Books Competition for adults and young people with English Literature at Bath Spa University. Entrants should explain their choice of favourite book, poem or play in either 750 words or in a video (no more than four minutes).
Open to three age groups: 13-16, 17-19 and 20+, judges will be looking for creative, passionate and engaging responses to celebrate the entries’ love of reading. The winner in each age group will be given £300; runners-up will each receive £100. The competition judges include Judy Carver (daughter of William Golding), Professor Neil Sammells, deputy Vice-Chancellor of Bath Spa University and Jan Williamson (ex-Chair of Marlborough LitFest). Entries close on 17 July; for more information on the competition, visit: www.lovebookscompetition.org
For updated Festival information, please visit: www.marlboroughlitfest.org