The “Year of Literary Heroes” is Underway in Britain (and What This Means for Planners)

Public-space-commemorating-C.S-LewisWe can always make time to acknowledge Jane Austen’s treasured characters, as well as Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood and a plethora of other literary favs. Can’t we?

The theme touches virtually every aspect of society; exploring the senses and new sensibilities for meetings and incentives. This year marks the 200th anniversary of Austen’s death, but her home county of Hampshire has been celebrating her life and achievements since the year began. New exhibitions are unfolding at Jane Austen’s House Museum, and a “Sitting with Jane,” public art exhibition comprised of 24 hand-painted benches designed to look like open books, but inspired by Austen’s life in Basingstoke, Steventon and the surrounding area are just one of many artistic nods to the author.

A number of talks covering popular themes in Austen’s novels and letters—from apothecary to a tea, tour and chat with relatives of the Lefroy family at the 19th century Wyards Farm—are also taking place. Film screenings, a fun musical bingo cabaret extravaganza performance or Jane Austen picnic pack for your group filled with Regency recipes, quizzes and period games are other themed options. There are literally hundreds of events happening throughout the year that you can piggyback on, not to mention the hundreds more that are happening throughout England.

Anne-Hathaway's-Cottage-and-Gardens-photo-credit-VisitBritain-and-LeeBeelAdditional highlights of the “Year of Literary Heroes” includes “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” screenings accompanied by live orchestral performances of John Williams’ treasured score in Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Glasgow and London’s Royal Albert Hall. A tour and gala event at Shakespeare’s New Place in Warwickshire, the final home of William Shakespeare where “The Tempest” was purportedly written, may be just what the doctor ordered for need of a little inspiration. The gorgeous estate, which has meetings space for groups of up to 250 at the Shakespeare Centre and an additional 120 (with catering for 200 attendees) at the adjacent Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, is offering a new exhibit that essentially places attendees in Shakespeare’s shoes. The Great Barn at Mary Arden’s Farm (it’s more of a gushing estate), the childhood home of Shakespeare’s mother, can also be booked for events as a fully functioning organic farm.

The Sanderson Hotel in London’s West End honors author Lewis Carroll with a “Mad Hatters Afternoon Tea” service where groups will discover menus hidden inside vintage books, teapots adorned with kings and queens and sandwich plates decorated with zebras, birdcages and ticking clocks. The seasonal menu includes a mix of savory and sweet treats like the mocha chessboard gateau, Tweedle Dee’s lemon curd, warm scones and clotted cream with preserves. A special “Mad Hatters Tipsy Evening Tea” service is held in the Courtyard Garden. Here, groups will indulge in smoked salmon scotch eggs and the King of Hearts croque-monsieur stack before moving on to alcohol-infused cakes like the dark chocolate and rum chessboard and flights of four cocktails intermixed. Both options come with a mysterious “Drink Me” potion.

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