The Blake Society—Annual Report to St James’s 2004
A year ago our administration was fitful and so I am pleased to report that we are now in a strong position with a growing Society enjoying monthly Lectures, special Events and our annual Journal.
The membership list was completely revised and renewed, a web site was created for the Society, and a graphic newsletter keeps us in regular contact with our members through the post with email updates. Moreover events are now listed regularly in the pages of the major newspapers. The use of the Church as a venue—the Society was founded at St James’s in 1985—was re-established with a public lecture given by the poet and broadcaster Tom Paulin. On the international stage, the Society was an official sponsor of the conference on Blake and the Orient in Kyoto. For Blake who never travelled further East than the Medway, it is good to know he has reached Japan. Sadly our Patron Kathleen Raine died in the summer; she was 95; the Society was well represented at the memorial service held in the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace. Finally we have a new President, only the third in our history, the novelist Philip Pullman whose trilogy His Dark Materials has brought William Blake to a new audience.
Our monthly meetings reflect the importance and appreciation of William Blake around the world with this year’s lecturers invited from the United States, Europe, Scotland, Ireland and England. Blake’s own birthday was celebrated with music, words and images at the special invitation of the Nehru Centre, and on Blake’s deathday a poem was read at his graveside by a visitor who had travelled from Peru.
Lecturers spoke about Blake’s influence on Bob Dylan, the Beat Poets, Yeats and Joyce. Tom Paulin attracted our largest audience of the year and it was especially illuminating to hear one poet talk about another. Paulin, for example, observed how Blake on occasion would achieve a special emphasis through the technique of using 3 monosyllabic words in a row: Damn Good Talk!
In January we hoped to mark the exact day, 200 years ago, when Blake was tried for Sedition (and acquitted) with a special lecture held in the Church and given by the distinguished lawyer, educationalist and prison reformer, Sir Stephen Tumim. Alas he died shortly before he was due to speak. Stephen was a remarkable man whose presence in a room always suggested a humanity more universal than the moment.
Many of our lectures are visual delights and in the autumn we saw how the friendship between Blake and his fellow artists Flaxman, Fuseli and Romney influenced each others’ work. Our final lecture of the year was on the great 17th century Christian Mystic and Shoe Maker, Jakob Boehme: ‘The world is magical’!
Our association with the Church of St James gives us the strength and incitement to seek an exegetic truth; Blake himself saw the Church as a rock to stand upon, and to hurl. Today The Blake Society is vital and renewed. Indeed we are now planning ahead to the 250th anniversary of Blake’s birth and his christening in St James’s Church in 1757.
Last modified 22/03/2008 09:32.