Arthur Ransome Trust

Putting Ransome on the Map

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Swallows and Amazons Live Reading Success


“Let’s hold a live reading of Swallows and Amazons,” the organisers thought. “How about on the shores or Coniston Water, at the heart of the landscape that inspired the book. What could possibly go wrong?

Thankfully, very little in respect to the reading itself. It started on time, at 9.00am, with ““Roger, aged seven, and no longer the youngest of the family…”. Some nine hours later “mother and Vicky (were) coming down the field.” After some fifty readers, 31 chapters, nearly 100,000 words – and a lot of rain – they were only three minutes late.

A reader and audience at the live reading by Coniston Water

It wasn’t quite a case of “wet work in the Lagoon”. But at times we might have been forgiven for thinking we were celebrating a scene from The Picts and the Martyrs, not its better-known antecedent. The forecast a week ahead had been for dry and calm weather, perfect for an outdoor live reading on the last Sunday of the holidays. One day ahead this had deteriorated to a dry start with a 20 – 50% chance of light rain later. Thankfully we had the dry start. But “light rain” in Coniston is a relative term, and not always as well behaved as in the book. It started during Chapter 6 and only gave up as the fictional storm did, at the end of Chapter 30.

This was a shame because the poor weather discouraged visitors to the beach. Yet it did little to dampen the readers’ spirits, whether young or not quite so young. Everyone arrived on time and read their parts with enthusiasm. Many stayed for lengthy periods before and after, so that nobody found themselves reading alone.

Big congratulations are due to the event’s organisers, Chris Routledge, of Liverpool University and Eileen Morris, both for their “grab a chance” response to their idea of doing a live reading of Swallows and Amazons. Chris’s estimated timings proved even more impressive.

It was a great privilege to take part, to meet the other readers and to have such a good excuse to give ART’s mini-marquees an airing. (Or rather a wash).

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