[A] literary marathon was completed on the shores of Coniston when a team of enthusiasts read all 31 chapters of the children’s classic story, Swallows and Amazons.
The novel event brought to an end a summer of celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the death of the writer Arthur Ransome.
Actors, writers, academics and fans old and young gathered under gazebos on the lake shore to read the book in nine hours – in spite of rain through the afternoon. Visitors were treated to free rides in a small boat across the lake to the Swallows and Amazons tearoom at Bank Ground Farm, which features as “Holly Howe” in the story.
The reading was started by eminent author Christina Hardyment, and the last chapter was read by Sophie Neville who starred in the 1974 film version of the book. In between were other actors, among them Hannah Jayne Thorp who starred in the recent film version, and Matt Addis, currently appearing in Handbagged at Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake.
The youngest reader was eight year old Megan Rushton whose ten year old sister Hannah also read a chapter. Becky Heaton Cooper of Grasmere’s Heaton Cooper Studio read from a copy which had belonged to her late father in law. Rachel Barford, a retired teacher, had travelled all the way from Essex for the occasion.
The event was organised by Dr Chris Routledge who is head of Continuing Education, English Language and Literature, at Liverpool University, in association with the Lake District National Park and The Arthur Ransome Trust. Dr Routledge said the day had been a huge success and he was thrilled with the enthusiasm of readers and visitors.
“It was such an appropriate way to celebrate the life and work of Ransome,” he said, adding thanks to the Arthur Ransome Trust who provided the shelters, and ran a stall selling books and memorabilia. “The age range of our readers proves that Ransome’s talent as a storyteller has an enduring appeal.”