While our Coming Up page features new talks, seminars, festivals or other events that we know are happening in the next few months or so, this page gives information and links for events that have already happened. Our most recent additions are at the top of the page and, where possible, we give a link to the organisers should you want to find out more.
Inevitably, this is only a sample of what’s going on. Many of the organisations and people featured in our More Resources pages have a programme of events, so do check out their activities and sign up to their newsletters.
In other parts of A Blakean Archive, you can keep up with:
- Finding Blake’s blog posts – contributions from project members and other creative minds.
- Finding Blake’s films – interviews with poets, artists, scholars and many others about their relationship with Blake, the making and siting of Blake’s new gravestone, and more.
- Interesting articles and creative artefacts that have explored or been inspired by aspects of Blake’s life, work and relevance.
Launch of VALA #3 This online event on 30th November 2022, a couple of days after William’s birthday, celebrated the publication of issue 3 of the free Journal of The Blake Society. This issue explores Blake, nature and the environment -- and features an article by Finding Blake's very own James Murray-White -- and is available as a free download from the VALA page of the Blake Society website.
The Westbrook Blake In this performance at St James's Church, Piccadilly, (24th November 2022) English jazz pianist and composer Mike Westbrook was joined by Kate Westbrook, Phil Minton and ensemble to perform Mike Westbrook’s settings of the poetry of William Blake. Part of Visions & Voices: Echos of William Blake - which also featured a writing workshop with Dr Kerry Ryan (26th November), using Blake’s poems and paintings to fire imaginations and inspire new writing, and Burning Bright: The Blake Singers & Guests - Blake Anniversary Concert (December 11th).
Global Blake: In Conversation with Franca Bellarsi This online event (21st November 2022) with Franca Bellarsi (Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium), researcher into the Beat Generation, ecocriticism, ecopoetics and English Romanticism, explored the influence of Blake’s complex approach to non-human material creation on Ginsberg and the life-changing epiphany that Ginsberg underwent in 1948 whilst reading The Songs of Innocence and of Experience.
William Blake Celebration: Lo-fi Improvised Music Ensemble + Sue Lynch In this evening of music and visuals from Lo-fi Ensemble, with Sue Lynch solo (21st November 2022) Blake texts written while he lived nearby in Hercules Road (1791 and 1800), along with his images, were used as a score to guide the ensemble performance.
Susheela Raman, Jason Whittaker & Guests: William Blake in Songs & Words In this (18th November 2022) event at St James's Church, Piccadilly (where Blake was baptised),singer/composer Susheela Raman’s performed original settings of Blake poems, such as the epic 'Proverbs of Hell', threaded with spoken word performances of Blake's writings by Jason Whittaker, author and Blake expert and accompanied by inventive guitarist and composer Sam Mills.
TYGER - The symmetry of writing and illustration in today’s Children’s Books In this Blake Society online event (19th October 2022), author SF Said and bookseller/illustrator Tamsin Rosewell discussed Blake’s influence in today’s literature – and Tyger, the latest novel directly influenced by the work and ideas of William Blake. Why do so many children’s authors reference Blake in their work? Why is the importance of children’s books so often overlooked or belittled? What can Blake’s language, art and ideas say to today’s children?
A guided walk: William Blake's Vision of a New Jerusalem in Kings Cross with Aidan Dun Poet, composer, and psychogeographer Aidan Andrew Dun led this guided walk (17th September 2022), exploring the mysteries of Old St Pancras Church, central to Blake's vision of a New Jerusalem. He shared his profoundly personal connection with this site, which he explored in his epic poem ‘Vale Royal’, which dreams of transforming an urban wasteland into a transcultural zone of canals at the heart of London.
Glastonbury William Blake Festival This year's festival in Glastonbury (12th - 14th August 2022) featured poetry at the Market Cross, singing at the Assembly Rooms, original, inspired works at the Abbey, and a special screening of our 'Finding Blake' film in the haunted ballroom above the 15th-century George & Pilgrim Inn.
Blake or Blade Runner On the fortieth anniversary of the release in 1982 of the film Blade Runner, this event from the Blake Society on 23rd February 2022 looked at a cinematic example where Blake’s praxis is made manifest. Blade Runner was directed by Ridley Scott and adapted from the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. Andy Wilson investigated why this film could almost be part of the Blake canon.
Romantics, Pre-Raphaelites and Fairies: from William Blake to E.R. Hughes A special study day at St Albans Cathedral on 26th March 2022 explored the genre of fairy painting in Victorian Art. Charting the development of fairy painting from Romanticism through to Symbolism were: Dr. Carol Jacobi, Curator of British Art (1850-1915) at Tate Britain; Professor Geraint John, Emeritus President of St Albans Civic Society; Professor Tim Boatswain, Professor of Anthropology and History. Art of the Victorian age was fascinated with fairies and themes of the supernatural. Across three lectures, we will examine this fascination and chart the development of the genre from its origins in the theatre and literature of Romanticism, right through to the metaphorical powers it held in the art of Symbolism, particularly the radical Pre-Raphaelite circle.
William Blake - Burning Bright with Ruth Rosen In this 27th January 2022 performance, poetry and prose performer Ruth Rosen brought her 'Burning Bright' on William Blake to the Keats Community Library in Hampstead, London: using only Blake’s own words from his letters, poems and prose, an inspiring, moving and sometimes startling journey through the extraordinary mind of Blake’s visionary genius. The Keats Community Library shared this feedback with us: "Ruth Rosen’s one person show 'Burning Bright' was delightful. Ruth is a consummate professional and her shows are expertly put together, her voice is beautiful, and we received a huge number of compliments to pass on to her. She made some difficult concepts so easy to understand. Ruth had performed the show at Chichester Theatre the previous week and we were honoured to have her perform it for our little community library."
The Blake Society AGM and Special Lecture The Blake Society's January 2022 AGM was followed by a special lecture by independent scholar Dr Keri Davies on the rise of Inoculation, the work of Blake’s contemporary Edward Jenner, the impact of Smallpox in 18th century London that was killing 20% of the urban population, and the common sense of Catherine The Great of Russia who wrote in a letter Inoculation should be common everywhere. All this being a preamble that leads to Blake. You can watch the recording here.
Global Blake online conference This special free event (11th-13th January 2022) from University of Lincoln and Bishop Grosseteste University examined how Blake’s global audiences have responded to his poetry and art and what these specific, non-British responses and cultural and social legacies can bring to the study of Blake. What is fascinating about works in art, literature and music inspired by Blake is the fact in which the verbal and the visual in Blake’s art translates into different cultural contexts in unique ways. More than 40 expert speakers explored a wide range of topics. And Finding Blake was there to share a special screening of our film, 'Finding Blake', with a short intro and Q&A with director James Murray-White. Recordings of the talks are shared at the Zoamorphosis site.
Avoiding Blake, Defeated by a Flea - with Brian Catling In this December 2021 event from the Blake Society, Brian Catling -- poet, sculptor, novelist, peformance artist and professor of Fine Art at the Ruskin School in Oxford -- presented a range of his own work alongside insights into the influence Blake has had on him. "I didn’t know Blake for quite a long time. And when I first saw his images, I didn’t quite understand why people were showing them to me. I didn’t see I had anything to do with this, or what it was saying, or the sentiment behind it. And then, thank God, The Flea arrived. The Flea changed everything. It stopped me in my tracks. It’s the most astonishing thing I’ve ever seen, this tiny little picture. It works in every conceivable way. It’s dramatic, it’s cinematic, it’s got multiple lives, multiple universes, and it’s a presence. This is not a vague presence. This is something muscular and dangerous. This is something that is prancing across the stage. And I kind of fell in love with it." You can watch Brian's talk at the link above, and there are notes and a a transcript from Andy Wilson at The Traveller in the Evening, his site about Blake.
Finding Blake at Exploring the Divided Brain 2021 In October 2021, Filmmaker and Finding Blake founder James Murray-White presented a screening of Finding Blake, the film, at this year's festival of talks and events from Iain McGilchrist. The four days inlcuded 14 talks from Iain and sessions designed to give guests the chance to assimilate the content of Iain’s talks and/or explore possible implications.
William Blake for Innocents: An Introduction From September to October 2021, Finding Blake contributor Adriana Diaz Enciso led a series of four sessions at Swenbourg House in London, offering an introductory panorama of William Blake’s poetic works, emphasizing their visionary character and the indissoluble bond between his poetry and his visual art. Children of Imagination: A biographic introduction to William Blake, his view of imagination, and Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. Prophecy as Revolution: Introduction to The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. How Blake questions Emanuel Swedenborg, who had been a key influence in his own work. How Visions are Peopled: Prophecy, Imagination and the Poetic Genius in Blake’s work. Introduction to his illustrated books. An account of Blake’s stay in Felpham and the birth of Milton. Finding Jerusalem: Blake’s return to London and the creation of Jerusalem. The Emanation of the Giant Albion. Blake’s legacy.
Finding Blake contributor Niall McDevitt led five new Blake walks in London in August 2021. Niall is an Irish poet based in London with a passion for exploring where historic poets lived, worked, and died. His research - ‘psychogeographical explorations’ - have been fine-tuned into popular walks tracing the lives of William Blake, Rimbaud and Verlaine, Thomas De Quincey, W.B. Yeats, and many others. WILLIAM BLAKE AND TOM PAINE Though most biographers accept there was an acquaintanceship between the philosopher Paine and the poet-painter Blake, there has been little attempt to imagine the massive impact the connection might have had on the younger man. The 50-something firebrand must have been the most exciting person Blake had ever met. Did Paine radicalise Blake? To what extent did Blake homage Paine in the character Orc, and rebuke Paine in the character Urizen? This walk progresses from Angel to Soho locating the disappeared streets where Paine held court to literary London in 1791 and where Catherine Blake died a lonely widow on 18 Oct 1831. WILLIAM BLAKE AND BEDLAM When William Blake died in 1827 a spate of posthumous articles appeared in various magazines questioning his sanity. One hoax article even claimed to have interviewed Blake in Bethlehem Hospital where he had supposedly been an inmate for twenty years. In Blake's own writings, though Jerusalem is namechecked countless times, Bethlehem is only mentioned once, disparagingly. This walk takes in the site of London's three historic Bethlehem Hospitals, and follows Los's route in Jerusalem from the Tower of London to the 'Dens of despair in the house of bread' aka Bedlam. WILLIAM BLAKE AND THE RIVER TYBURN In 1803 William Blake returned to London, but was still facing a sedition trial in Sussex in early 1804. Finding himself living within view of the disused site of Tyburn and on a street where the River Tyburn was flowing directly underneath, he developed a new humanitarian symbol for the final phase of his spiritual polemic. This walk joins the course of the River Tyburn at Baker Street, finds the site of the lost medieval Tyburn Church, and tries to locate the mysterious 'Tyburn Brook'. WILLIAM BLAKE AND SWEDENBORG As Swedenborg was the mystical teacher who later 'turned on' great Europeans such Balzac, Baudelaire and Strindberg, so he had performed a similar service for Blake at the time of the French Revolution. For some, Swedenborg seems to prophesy Blake. For others, he is a figure of fun, who has never fully recovered from Blake's satirical portrait in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. The two seem to appear together in Blake's recurring image of London as an old man led by a child. This walk begins at the site of Swedenborg's burial, ends at the site of his final London dwelling-place and death in 1772, and will try to locate the site of the Church of the New Jerusalem where Blake and Catherine attended a weeklong conference in 1789. BLAKE AND BACON: TWO SOHO ARTISTS It's hard to think of two English artists who seem more diametrically opposed than William Blake and Francis Bacon. While one is renowned as England's greatest religious artist, the other is equally renowned for the atheism of his oeuvre. Though Bacon hated Blake's art, he was still fascinated by the man. Bacon had a copy of Blake's life-mask in his Reece Mews studio, and - working from a b/w photo - painted a series of six discomfiting studies. This walk begins in Mayfair where Blake lived in obscurity and Bacon first exhibited Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion. It then explores the 18th century Soho that was Blake's birthplace alongside the 20th century Soho that was Bacon's playground.
Poet and psychogeographer Niall McDevitt led a series of walks exploring William Blake's life and work in London: 3rd November - Central: William Blake in W1; 10th November - East: A William Blake /Wat Tyler Walk; 17th November - South: A William Blake / Arthur Rimbaud Walk; 24th November - North: William Blake and the Visionary Poets of Hampstead; 1st December - West: Jerusalem’s Pillars. You can read Niall's summary of this series on his Poetopography blog, A Thank You Letter to My Fellow Blake Walkers: "It felt a bit like this: All fell towards the Center, sinking downwards in dire ruin, In the South remains a burning Fire: in the East. a Void In the West, a World of raging Waters: in the North; solid Darkness Unfathomable without end: but in the midst of these Is Built eternally the sublime Universe of Los & Enitharmon" And you can read Niall's own guest post for Finding Blake, My Streets Are My, Ideas of Imagination.
Glastonbury - 15th-17th August 2019 Blakestock evoked the Spirit of Britain’s Great Artist, Poet and Avatar in an illuminating three days of word, picture and song. Top speakers shared their wisdom about the great artist and wordsmith, and a fantastic line up of brilliant Glastonbury musicians and performers, along with wonderful guests from London and Europe -- including Roger Arias, whose Strange Mystery Flower featured in his Finding Blake post.
Cambridge - Thursday April 11th 2019 Poet & translator Sasha Dugdale gave a reading of her prize-winning long-form monologue in the voice of William Blake's wife Catherine, as part of the winter series of story salons at Othersyde. For an extract from and more information on the poem, see our post, ‘Joy’ Reading & Film: Sasha Dugdale on Catherine Blake.
London - Wednesday 28th November 2018 The Blake Society's William Blake Birthday Revelry: "Come and celebrate the 261st anniversary of the Eternal Prophet's entrances into this vegetable universe with an evening of art, poetry, music, drama, song, dance and wit."
London - Monday 26 November 2018 Philosopher and former researcher at the Open University (and Finding Blake contributing author) James Fox, elaborated on his Finding Blake post, Divine Madness, published here on Finding Blake. The event also featured perfroamnce by two seasoned Blakeans: poet Stephen Micalef and singer and musiocian Armorel Weston. NB: A further post from James, building on this ralk, will appear on Finding Blake very soon.
London - Wednesday 12th September For this Blake Society event, poet, translator and editor Sasha Dugdale read from her Forward Prize-winning poem Joy, a monologue written in the voice of Catherine Blake following William Blake’s death, and talk about the process of researching and writing the poem. Joy’s title poem was recipient of the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem in 2016.
Bognor Regis - Saturday 15th September 2018 The fourth annual Blakefest was a celebration of William Blake and his impact on the 60s. Headlined by Lene Lovich and including the music of George Harrison from the 10-piece All Things Must Pass Orchestra and Jazz from Emily Dankworth with the Jamie Lemming Trio. Plus: poetry, featuring Sasha Dugdale and ‘On the Streets’ Art Exhibition with the English and Creative Writing Department of Chichester - and Niall McDevitt at William and Catherine Blake's Cottage in Felpham; and Building Jerusalem, a public meeting exploring the relevance of William Blake’s poem/hymn Jerusalem and wider philosophy, to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Britain’s potential role in finding a solution to it.
Glastonbury, Wednesday 8th - Friday 10th August 2018 An exciting new three-day festival for Glastonbury 2018 to celebrate the life and work of visionary British artist, poet and printmaker, William Blake. Events included discussion on how the 60’s Beat Poets were influenced by Blake’s incredible art and poetry and will explore their connections with Glastonbury, ‘William Blake and the Glastonbury Gnosis‘. You can see film of some of the talks and events at the Glastonbury Positive Living Group.
Poet and psychogeographer Niall McDevitt leads a series of walks exploring William Blake's life and work in London. Recent examples in 2018 include Jerusalems's Pillars, William Blake & the Visionary Poets of Hampstead, A William Blake Walk, A Rimbaud Blake Waterloo Lambeth Walk "A passionate, obsessive Blakean. There is no better way to learn about our great mystic, and there is so much!" Niall's post My Streets Are, My Ideas of Imagination was published on Finding Blake in June 2018 and you can find his earlier piece on "Urban shaman and psychogeographer" via the Blakean Articles page of A Blakean Archive.
London, Thursday 12th July 2018 The Guildhall School of Music’s premier jazz vocal group presents Blake Songs, an innovative setting by John Ashton Thomas of poems by William Blake for voices with improvising jazz trio, commissioned by the Martin Speake trio. The first half of the concert features close-harmony arrangements of great jazz standards and original music by director Scott Stroman, Gene Puerling, and others.
Winchester, 21st June 2018 The title poem of Sasha Dugdale’s latest collection and winner of the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem 2016, ‘Joy’ is a dramatic monologue in the voice of Catherine, widow of the poet and engraver William Blake. In addition to being a moving meditation on loss, the work is a poignant evocation of the couple’s long and creative companionship and the life of a truly remarkable artist. Actress Linda Bassett read this beautifully crafted poem, described by the Forward judges as ‘an extraordinarily sustained visionary piece of writing'. Sasha Dugdale spoke about the research and writing of the poem. (You can read more about Joy at the Blake In Literature section of our Other Blakean Artefacts page.
London, 6th June 2018 Dr Linda Freedman identified key moments of literary Blakeanism in the American counterculture. Blake was a formative influence on major writers and musicians from Allen Ginsberg to Bob Dylan, the Doors and Patti Smith, listen to selected songs. 50 years ago, Allen Ginsberg read William Blake’s ‘I saw a Monk of Charlemaine’ as he stood with the crowds outside the Chicago Democratic Convention to protest against America’s increasingly sinister war in Vietnam. In the same year, Theodore Roszak coined the term ‘counterculture’, bringing his own brand of Blakeanism to the fore. This was a generation in which left-wing American radicals could identify America itself as Satanic – in its imperialism, its capitalism, its racism and its war in Vietnam – but they could also feel America to be vibrantly alive with the radicalism of the arts and theology. Blake spoke to this mood.
London, 31st May 2018 Philip Pullman -- President of the Blake Society -- talked about the art and craft of storytelling at the Blake Society 2018 Annual Lecture. He spoke on the importance of stories, giving examples from his newest work, La Belle Sauvage, and drew on Daemon Voices, his recently published book on storytelling, as well as the influence on his writing of Blake, Milton and the Bible. UPDATE: Philip Pullman's lecture is now available to watch on the Blake Society's YouTube channel.
Cambridge, 14th May 2018 This event at St James’ Church Wulfstan Way Cambridge saw Revd Prof Christopher Rowland -- the author of Blake and the Bible -- speak on ‘Blake and Prophecy’, and Revd Dr Malcolm Guite, an author, poet, singer-songwriter and Anglican priest, speak on ‘Blake and Jesus’.
Leeds, 22nd April 2018 As previewed in the Yorkshire Evening Post (19/3/18), this event was to cover the cornerstones of the Lieder repertoire alongside works written especially for this year’s festival. Highlights include composer Daniel Kidane presenting a brand new song cycle Songs of Illumination, set to poetry by William Blake.
Oxford, 10th March 2018: an event of the British Psychotherapy Foundation Speaker Carol Leader - a Jungian analyst and senior psychoanalytic psychotherapist with the British Psychotherapy Foundation - worked extensively in theatre, TV and radio before re-training as a therapist twenty years ago. She is in full time private practice, consults in business and for projects in the arts and writes, lectures and leads workshops and seminars for a number of professional trainings. This talk included a summary and further development of themes explored in Carol’s paper Evil, Imagination and the Unrepressed Unconscious: the Value of William Blake’s Satanic ‘Error’ for Clinical Practice. The poet and artist William Blake was profoundly affected by the impact of the industrial revolution and railed against ‘Satanic Mills’. For Blake these ‘mills’ represent an aspect of the human mind that is in a state of repetitive ‘Error’ that has an alarming impact on the individual and society. Blake offers a powerful experiential portal or ‘cipher’ into both this ‘mechanical’ state and liberation from it through his writings and illustrations of ‘Satan.’ Blake’s explorations can be seen to be in the same territory as, but to pre-date the work of Freud, Jung, Bion and also later analytic writers. More recently McGilchrist (2012) in The Master and his Emissary powerfully adds to Blake’s insights with a wealth of contemporary research relating to a dangerous over-valuation of left-brain, scientific processing in the western world coupled with a denigration of the profound relational and integrative qualities that right brain functions promote. You can watch another talk Carol gave, 'William Blake and the Therapists', which is available on the Blake Society YouTube channel.
Chichester 22nd February 2018 Speaker Professor Christopher Rowland's illustrated lecture related to his new book, Radical Prophet: The Mystics, Subversives and Visionaries who Strove for Heaven on Earth (I.B.Tauris, 2017). In this book he explores the fact that Christianity began with the conviction that the old order was finished. The mysterious, elusive and charismatic figure of Jesus proclaimed that a new era, the Kingdom of God, was dawning. Yet despite its success, and the conversion of the empire which had executed its founder, the religion he inspired was soon domesticated, its counter-cultural radicalism tamed, as the Church attempted to control both its doctrines and its followers. Christopher Rowland shows that this was never the whole story, and in this lecture he focuses on the extraordinary figure of William Blake. Blake may be best known for the words to the hymn 'Jerusalem', but that he was hardly an 'establishment' figure is indicated by his trial for sedition in the Assizes court at Chichester. This was in 1803, during the four years of his life spent in Sussex. Otherwise Blake lived in London, working as an engraver, mixing with dissident thinkers concerned with social justice and equality, and producing the visionary poetry and artwork for which he is renowned.
Bognor Regis, September 2017 A two day festival of music and comedy, and a multisensory exhibition, "with a simple desire to shout-out about Blake’s 'Poetic Genius' and reveal something of the hidden beauty he discovered here. Blake’s Beulah, a window into heaven, I wanted reflected in our festival’s culture, interaction with nature, music and art."