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John Betjeman and all things Cornish

As part of the Daphne du Maurier Festival of Arts and Literature a series of special University of Exeter lecture sessions will be held at the Fowey Town Hall. 

Academics from the English department at the University of Exeter’s Cornwall Campus will share their knowledge of Daphne du Maurier and other writers who have been influenced by their time in Devon and Cornwall and or written extensively about the region. 

Cornwall was a great draw to one of Britain’s most popular poet laureates, Sir John Betjeman. As part of the Exeter Sessions, Professor Philip Payton will talk from his recent biography John Betjeman and Cornwall’  providing insights into Betjeman the man, and into the complex nature of Cornwall and the Cornish identity. Professor Payton has not only made use of the John Betjeman library archive held by Special Collections at the University of Exeter, but has also had access to previously unavailable material in an extensive archive compiled by Betjeman’s daughter, Candida Lycett Green.

Betjeman first discovered Cornwall as a small boy, visiting with his parents, and later made his home at Trebetherick on the north Cornwall coast.  Professor Payton's talk will look at the paradox of the poet who, while quintessentially English, felt himself to be an outsider in England and strove to acquire a veneer of Cornishness cultivating an alternative Celtic identity, and finding inspiration in Cornwall’s Anglo-Catholic tradition.

Professor Payton who is Director of the University of Exeter's Institute of Cornish Studies on the Cornwall Campus, said 'John Betjeman's passion for Cornwall remains highly relevant today. He was, for example, an early advocate of a sustainable Cornish economy and called for protection of the Cornish environment, two key concerns in early twenty-first century Cornwall.' 

Scholars from the University have shared their expertise and knowledge since the Daphne du Maurier festival’s inception in 1996 by contributing to talks, chairing discussion panels, giving readings and interpretations and creating events around south west writers particularly du Maurier. 

The annual festival focuses attention on the vast array of literary talent and arts practice, whose creative contributions generate attention from literary circles on a national and international scale. The University of Exeter Sessions will take place on 17 -19 May at Fowey Town Hall, the Betjeman talk is on Thursday 19 May at 2.30pm.

Date: 18 May 2011

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