William Blake Birthday Party and the Blake Society

As remarked in the news story at the beginning of this week, on Sunday 28 November the Blake Society organised a celebration to mark the anniversary of Blake’s birth at the Clore Gallery, Tate Britain, which also served as an opportunity to note 25 years since it was founded.

The event was a great success, with more than 150 members of the society (as well as general public) in attendance to listen to a number of talks about Blake as well as two films: Caterpillar and Fly, a delightful and extremely charming short movie by Becky Adams of Reelscape Films, and Jerusalem, a biopic directed by Ryan Andrews and written by Philippa Goslett, starring Ray Winstone in the role of Blake. Musical interludes were provided by Fernand Péna, Guy Pearson, and Tally Koren: Fernand’s rock and roll approach to Blake has already featured on this site, and a review of his and Guy’s classical exposition of Blake’s poems will follow in the weeks ahead. Tally, “based in London by way of Israel and Mexico”, ended the day with a rousing performance of her song “Man on the Thames”, based on Blake’s poem “Why should I care for the men of thames”. You can download the song from Soundcloud.

Speakers included Keri Davies and Shirley Dent with some comments on future directions for Blake and the Blake Society, as well as Philippa Simpson from Tate Britain discussing the recent acquisition of Blake’s prints and yours truly indicating some of the exciting possibilities offered by web 2.0 and social media technologies for engaging with an audience of Blake enthusiasts. All speakers, singers and presenters were introduced by Tim Heath, the current chair of the Blake Society whose hard work for the day was deeply appreciated by all who attended.

Founded in 1985 and meeting regularly since 1986, the Blake Society – in its own words – sets out to “honour and celebrate” Blake, and anyone with an interest in the poet and artist should consider joining. It is an extremely open – and also extremely friendly – society, and over the years has brought together some of the most important scholars working in the field of Blake studies to share their findings and celebrated public figures, not least the current chairman, Philip Pullman. More than this, however, it has also celebrated the enthusiasm of many others who may not be academically involved with Blake but who often have a profound – and lifelong – fascination with this most remarkable of men.

The first 25 years of the Society has seen it become a rich source of all things Blakean, and over the next 25 it will surely become even more entrenched as a centre for all those who have a rich passion for Blake’s works. You can become a member of the Blake Society by visiting its web site, http://www.blakesociety.org.