This afternoon I took a trip to Hill Top, the house in Cumbria, where Arthur Ransome settled with his wife Evgenia in 1960, and where they lived together until his death in 1967. Stephen Sykes, the current owner, lives at Hill Top and is a huge Ransome enthusiast. Next door (and part of the house itself) is a luxury self-catering cottage with wonderful views over the Rusland valley, Grizedale Forest, and the Coniston fells beyond. Visitors have access to a brilliant games room with pool and table tennis tables, and a lovely patio surrounded by flowers. It’s a real gem of a place. You won’t do much better for a self-catering cottage in the Lake District. Stephen has very kindly allowed If Not Duffers to piggyback on the bookmarks he’s produced to promote the cottage, making a useful, double sided bookmark for reading Swallows and Amazons, and the rest of Ransome’s books. They’ll be around at the Chill Swim (Coniston Water end to end) on Saturday, and the marathon reading (Swallows and Amazons end to end) on Sunday, so drop by and pick one up if you can. Thanks Stephen!
More about Hill Top at http://www.hilltopvista.com/
A fitting second edition of The Making of Swallows and Amazons (1974), by award-winning author Sophie Neville, has just been published by The Lutterworth Press. The glossy re-packaged book boasts a new filmography along with even more memorable diary extracts and insights into the cast and crew’s life behind the scenes. After being cast as Able-seaman Titty Walker in director Claude Whatham’s adaptation of Arthur Ransome’s classic children’s book, it was Sophie’s mother who encouraged her to record what has now become “a little bit of film history.”
Originally released as an eBook, it first came out in paperback (published by Classic TV Press) to coincide with the 40th Anniversary Special Edition re-mastered DVD and Blu-ray of the movie, distributed by StudioCanal in August 2014. A couple of years later, plans for an updated version started to gather pace after a number of new stories began floating to the surface. Reading the book had stirred her mother’s memory, as well as those of many people Sophie had never met, who wrote to her with amusing anecdotes and details. These details included names for the credits such as John Foster the ‘snake wrangler’ from Cumbria – the man who provided a live adder. Among others was Lesley Bennett (who played Mate Peggy), who’d been living in the Netherlands, and working in Dubai, when Sophie first began to type up the diaries. She met her future publisher on the publication of Swallows, Amazons and Coots (Lutterworth, 2016) written by Julian Lovelock, editor of The Arthur Ransome Society’s journal Mixed Moss. Sophie provided an engaging introduction for the book drawing on her role as the current President of the society and a foreword to Albatros Media’s new edition of Arthur Ransome’s novel Swallowdale in the Czech Republic.
Interest in Ransome’s work, especially Swallows and Amazons has remained strong since his death 50 years ago, and in recent times Sophie has been in demand as a speaker. She has maintained strong links with the Lake District, performing signings and Q&As after the 40th anniversary screenings of the film. During one such event at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal, all 250 seats were quickly filled and queues of people had to be turned away. She has further illustrated talks lined up this autumn and at the Tavistock Festival and Books East in 2018. After attending the Arthur Ransome Society Literary Weekend in Edinburgh, Sophie will be dashing to Coniston to take part in the marathon reading of Swallows and Amazons on September 3rd. Other celebrity readers signed up to read chapters include Hannah Jayne Thorp, who played the part of Peggy in 2016’s film version of Swallows and Amazons, and Christina Hardyment, author of several Ransome-related books, and senior executor for the Arthur Ransome Literary Estate. Meanwhile, next year The Arthur Ransome Society (the UK’s second largest literary society) will return back to Coniston for a long weekend of events from 25th to 28th May 2018, where they will be welcoming new members.
By David Banning (@theArtBagger), author of An A-Z of Cumbria & the Lake District on Film (Hayloft, 2016), with a foreword by Sophie Neville.
The sailing boat “Amazon” (formerly “Mavis”) at the Ruskin Museum, Coniston. Arthur Ransome and his friend Ernest Altounyan bought two boats, “Swallow” and “Mavis” (another name for Song Thrush) in 1928.
The exhibition, From Coniston to the Kremlin: Arthur Ransome’s Russian Adventures opened at the Ruskin Museum, Coniston, on June 3rd, exploring Arthur Ransome’s involvement as a political reporter in Russia as the country went through the bloody transition from Tsarist state to what later became the Soviet Union. Ransome spent a decade, between 1914 and 1924, studying and writing about Russia and its complex, and often dangerous politics. The exhibition contains a fascinating collection of artifacts, letters, notebooks, and photographs from Ransome’s time in Russia, and in the Lake District. I highly recommend a visit to the exhibition, and to the Ruskin Museum, if you’re in the area over the summer. There is more about the exhibition, and about Ransome, over at the Arthur Ransome Trust website.
The exhibition ends, of course, on Sunday, September 3rd, when we celebrate Ransome’s best-known novel, Swallows and Amazons, by reading it aloud on the lake shore at Coniston. There are still a few spaces for reading volunteers–get in touch using the contact form if you would like to be part of the marathon reading.