Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Colonial Countryside: English Country Houses Reinterpreted

On 31st July, I joined the Centre for New Writing at University of Leicester as a Literary Associate as part of a new initiative to mobilise child historians to develop new audiences for cutting-edge research about British country houses' Caribbean and East India connections.

This is a child-led history and writing project led by Dr Corinne Fowler at the University of Leicester. The three-year collaborative project entitled, 'Colonial Countryside', will encourage primary pupils aged 10 to engage with country homes with the help of historians and writers. Peepal Tree Press will publish and resource new writing, stimulating widespread interest in this neglected aspect of British history.

You can listen to an interview with Dr Corinne Fowler on Leicester Radio below:

The Centre for New Writing team is kick-starting the initiative by crowdfunding a pilot event with Colmore Junior School in Birmingham, working with Kenwood and Harewood House.

The crowdfunding will pay for 20 children to visit country houses and related archives. It will also fund an historian and a writer, plus pay for a podcast narrated by the children, who will recount their experiences.

Dr Corinne Fowler, Director of the Centre for New Writing said, "Children make great researchers. They ask different sorts of questions to adults. This project will be led by children, who introduce parents, children, teachers, and country house visitors to a wide range of colonial connections. The aim is to encourage children to think of themselves as future leaders and historians in the field."

In the second phase, 100 primary pupils will visit 10 local country houses. They will explore the archives with an historian and work with a writer to produce pithy personal essays which will be communicated to live, print and digital audiences. Peepal Tree Press will also commission 10 high-profile writers to produce new creative work about each of the 10 participating houses. The books will be sold in the bookshops of those houses. The children will attend a conference with panels and keynotes but where only children speak. There will be a child-only advisory board and children will co-produce exhibitions, a massive online open course and they will participate in the training of heritage professionals.

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