Report to St James’s Church, Parochial Church Council
2008 (1 April 2007—31 March 2008)
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. There are over 300 members in 16 countries across the globe including America, Australia, Canada, China, Europe, Japan, Russia, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
During this year we celebrated the 250th anniversary of the birth of William Blake and his baptism in St James’s Church on 11 December 1757.
The Archbishop of Canterbury gave our Annual Lecture that took the form of a conversation between the ABC, Rowan Williams and Professor Christopher Rowland on Blake & The Bible. On the actual Christening, we commissioned a beautiful ice sculpture that was placed in the font and melted away during the day.
My mother groand! my father wept.
Into the dangerous world I leapt
It is a dangerous world and a world that has largely closed it doors to visionary forms. So the Society has tried during this anniversary year to break free from Mind-Forg’d Manacles and propel William into the palaces of power that he never quite managed to enter himself.
In June we held a meeting in the Houses of Parliament celebrating Blake’s contribution to the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade whose 200th anniversary also fell this year. In September the Royal Navy lent us a ship to recreate Blake’s sketching holiday in 1790 when he sailed down the Thames and up the Medway (and was promptly arrested near Chatham Dockyards on suspicion of spying for the French).
The Italian Cultural Institute hosted a talk on Blake and Dante; we sponsored an international academic conference in York; and we held a lecture on The Visionary Form of Money at St Ethelburga’s Church – the Centre for Reconciliation and Peace.
We held a poetry event on Despair (There is a Moment in each Day that Satan cannot find) and together with the organisations Poet in the City and Imperial College we hosted an evening where poets and writers including Aidan Dun and Tracy Chevalier spoke about Blake’s influence.
We recreated William’s Wedding at St Mary’s Church in Battersea where he was married to Kate in 1782 with historical costumes and period dance. And for Blake’s unmarked grave in Bunhill Fields we initiated the permission and commission of a stone to be cut by the Kindersley Workshop.
The Society held an exhibition of contemporary art at the House of William Blake entitled All That We See Is Vision that included an artist’s book and where we launched The Blake Prize.
Amid all this we held our regular series of lectures with subjects ranging from the academic challenges encountered in editing a Blake text, through joint meetings with the Robert Bloomfield Society and the Swedenborg Society, to a lecture on the discoveries linking Blake to the Moravians.
We published our Annual Blake Journal – reaching the tenth in the series, and we also published the first ever facsimile of Blake’s painting of The Last Judgement. The hundred and more figures in this painting were identified in a complementary lecture given at The Drawing Gallery.
Members of our Society were represented at celebrations in Westminster Abbey, The Tate Gallery, The British Library, The British Museum, The Whitworth Gallery in Manchester and the Church of St Mary in the village of Felpham where Blake lived for 3 years beside the sea.
So it has been a year of exuberance, and in organising so many activities with so little funds we moved beyond the limitations of money and into a form of visionary space …
Last modified 22/03/2008 09:40.