‘Away to sweet Felpham, for heaven is there:
The ladder of Angels descends through the air,
On the turret its spiral does softly descend,
Through the village it winds, at my cot it does end’
William Blake’s work was familiar to me long before I knew anything about his life as a poet. The language of Tyger Tyger stuck in my mind from a young age, its pace and imagery thundering on and curling around like a dark nursery rhyme. Studying Songs of Innocence and Experience at university took my understanding of, and admiration for, Blake’s work to a whole new level. The collection is a folding mirror of light and darkness, his words set in the most beautiful, almost psychedelic, copper plate prints. The haunting cries of the children of Experience from The Chimney Sweeper to A Little Boy Lost echoed on long after my course had finished. For me it is Blake’s empathy for his subjects, his ability to cast an otherworldly light on the everyday, to illuminate and give voice to what lies beneath the surface, that makes his work so precious and so unique.
When my friend Richard Skinner mentioned that alongside novelist Rowan Coleman he was putting together a literary fundraising event for Rachel Searle of The Big Blake Project, I wanted to get involved. I’d previously seen the piece in the New York Times about the sale of William Blake’s Felpham cottage – the cottage where he lived for 3 years and wrote Jerusalem – and the appeal to buy it and keep it in trust for the nation sounded like an urgent and brilliant cause.
The Big Blake project is founded by Rachel Searle who works as part of a Blake collective called the ‘Blake 7’. Alongside The Blake Society they have worked tirelessly to raise funds and awareness for the campaign to buy Blake’s Felpham cottage, whilst also running other Blake projects such as The Big Blake Trail.
On Saturday 18 July 2015, 4.30pm-6.30pm, a host of award-winning poets, novelists and Blake aficionados join together to celebrate William Blake’s life and his poetry in the unique setting of his former parish, St Mary’s Church in Felpham. In the South Chancel wall of the church is the stunnning ‘Blake Memorial Window’ which commemorates the 250th anniversary of William Blake’s birth. To be able to celebrate his life in this way, in the village where Blake lived and wrote Jerusalem, feels like a truly unique opportunity.
The line up includes 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; Rowan Coleman, author of 12 novels and Richard and Judy’s bookclub choice The Memory Book; and the afternoon will be hosted by novelist, poet and Director of Fiction at the Faber Academy, Richard Skinner.
There will also be a chance to buy books and have them signed by the authors after the event.
Details of a London Blake’s Cottage fundraising event taking place on Saturday 19th September in Piccadilly will be announced shortly.
Award winners support Blake’s Cottage Appeal takes place on Saturday 18th July 2015, 4.30pm-6.30pm. Tickets are £8 each and can be bought in advance from blakescottageappeal.eventbrite.co.uk