Report to St James’s Church, Parochial Church Council
2007 1 April 2006 – 31 March 2007
The Blake Society
The Society is a set of people who love Blake – poet, artist and visionary. Our activities are a union of exegesis and inspiration – we search for the provenance of his imagination and we try to act with creativity and vision.
This year is the 250th anniversary of the birth of William Blake and the Society will be hosting a series of events leading up to his birthday on the 28th November and his christening on the 11th December 1757 in St James’s Church.
Blake was baptised, married and buried within the rites of the Church of England. Yet in between his spiritual journey was unbounded. The Society traces the trajectory of this life – we visit the places Blake knew, we study the books he owned, we look for clues to understanding his poetry and art, and we recall the anguish that fired his radical politics.
Our year began with Blake’s naked portrait of a Prime Minister – the Spiritual Form of Pitt. In the late summer we sponsored an international conference on Blake & Conflict at Oxford University. And at the end of the year we welcomed from prison our patron, the pacifist and poet, Adrian Mitchell (the night before he spent in a police cell for protesting against our nuclear deterrent at the submarine base at Faslane in Scotland).
The topics of our monthly lectures continue to range widely: the American Counter Culture, Zodiacal Physiognomy, Richardson’s 18th century bodice-ripper Clarissa, and the pop-up illustrations to the mystic Jacob Boehme. We visited Linnell’s house in Hampstead where Blake would often visit on a summers’ day and Wesley’s winter home in Bunhill Fields. We watched Blake’s film of the life of Christ (his illustrations to the New Testament projected onto a screen one after another). Finally the poet and rock star Patti Smith gave our Annual Lecture – singing to an enthralled audience that filled the Church.
We have members in 16 countries around the world including America, Australia, Canada, China, Europe, Japan, Russia, and South Africa – and we do all this on an income of less than £2,000. Yet this success hides a contradiction – Blakeans are reluctant joiners. Somehow they have taken to their heart’s Blake’s saying: I must Create a System or be Enslaved by Another’s.
Yet we persist with a vision to put vision at the centre of our country – the only nation is the imagination.
In the Houses of Parliament on the 12th June we will be holding a lecture on Blake’s contribution to the abolition of all forms of slavery. And on 29th November 2007 we welcome to St James’s Church the poet and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams who will give our Annual Lecture.
We invite all who love St James’s to attend.
Last modified 22/03/2008 09:38.