The study and appreciation of the life, works and times of Arnold Bennett

90th Anniversary – Commemoration

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90th Anniversary of Arnold Bennett’s death: 27th March 1931
The BBC are commemorating this anniversary with broadcasts and online recordings on BBC Radio 4 Extra with three repeated programmes on offer.

Arnold of the Five Towns (30 minutes): Samira Ahmed visits Stoke-on-Trent to explore the life and work of Potteries-born Arnold Bennett. This is being broadcast live on Monday 29th March at 2.30pm, but you can listen to by clicking on this link – which is already live (You will be asked to sign in or register): “Writer Arnold Bennett was a man of many worlds. Born in 1867 amidst the roar and industry of The Potteries, he became a giant of the London literati, renowned far beyond the capital for works such as The Old Wives’ Tale, The Card and Anna of the Five Towns.But Bennett was not just a novelist. From screenplays to ‘how to’ books, Evening Standard articles to Woman magazine, he was wildly prolific, unashamed of earning a living from his art, and as capable of describing the minutiae of grand hotels as he was the life of a charwoman.Mourned by the likes of Lord Beaverbrook and Somerset Maugham when he died in 1931, Arnold Bennett earned a level of wealth and celebrity in his lifetime of which many writers might now only dream So why does this man – who once wrote in his journal that he “would not care a bilberry for posterity” – seem to have somewhat fallen from fame? What’s his legacy in his hometown? And what could his life and work say to 21st Century Britain? In this programme, Bennett fan Samira Ahmed reappraises the reputation of this self-made man from the Potteries, visiting places as diverse as the Savoy Hotel and Stoke City FC. She tours Burslem’s Bennett landmarks, delves into the archive at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery and walks the floorboards of the Middleport Pottery as she hears how it inspired one of Bennett’s best-loved works. Interviewees include Dame Margaret Drabble, historian Tristram Hunt, wrier Sathnam Sanghera and many others.”
Also: “Anna of the Five Towns” on Monday 29th March at10.00am and again at 3.00pm. It’s in two parts and features two of our local actors in the cast: Jacqueline Redgewell plays Sarah Vodrey and James Masters plays Titus Price. Shortly after broadcast it will be available to listen to online by clicking this link: Part 1. Part 2 “Arnold Bennett’s powerful story of love, tyranny and rebellion set against the vitality and harshness of life in the Staffordshire Potteries in the late nineteenth century. Brought up in the repressive tradition of Methodism by her miserly father, Anna Tellwright dreams of independence and freedom.”
And: “Great Lives: Deborah Moggach on Arnold Bennett” (30 minutes) – Writer Deborah Moggach nominates the Potteries author Arnold Bennett. With Matthew Parris and Gyles Brandreth. You can listen to this programme – which is already live – by clicking this link:“Novelist and author Deborah Moggach nominates the Potteries writer Arnold Bennett, whose work she thinks has been wrongly overlooked, as he was considered as being too popular. She believes that because he was a working writer who earned his living writing both serious and light fiction, he was not taken seriously until after his death in 1931, despite his books being hugely popular during his lifetime.”
I hope you enjoy tuning into these great programmes. One interesting sideline: the anniversary is 27th March. For 90 years his gravestone has been showing the wrong date of his death – 29th March – see the photo below. Bennett might have thought it typical of the Potteries’ ‘it’ll do’ outlook to leave it like that. Three years earlier Stoke’s Mayor was granted “Lord Mayor” status, and the sign above his Parlour door was amended with the word “LORD” on an extra bit of wood tacked on. That extra bit of wood is still there after 93 years!
Ray Johnson

BBC Radio 4 Extra Monday 29 March 2021

BBC Radio 4 Extra Monday 29 March 2021

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