The Picts and the Martyrs

IMG_7392Over the years I seem to have found myself organising several marathon readings of novels, in which people come together to read together, chapter by chapter. The first of these was a marathon reading of Moby Dick, which took place in Liverpool in 2013 (more information is here); it was the first marathon reading of Melville’s great novel in the UK. Since then, I’ve collaborated with Eileen Jones on two more, rather shorter marathon readings, of the Arthur Ransome novels Swallows and Amazons and Pigeon Post, in 2017 and 2019 respectively. We staged those two in the Lake District, near to where they are set.

And now there is a third, created under Covid-19 rules: a reading of The Picts and the Martyrs, Ransome’s “lockdown” novel. You can listen to the book read by 31 readers, all reading in their own homes, on our website If Not Duffers. I hope you enjoy it.

A Marathon Reading of Swallows and Amazons

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Back in 2013, as part of my work in Continuing Education, I was involved in organising a marathon reading of Moby-Dick at the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool. Although the organising was complicated (all those chapters to read at the right time over three days in two venues) it turned out to be one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. Melville’s challenging, troublesome book came alive in the voices of over 100 lovely volunteers. I’m quite familiar with Moby-Dick, but I heard a lightness and humour I hadn’t fully understood before.

Four years later and I’m at it again with another waterborne tale, Swallows and Amazons, in the Lake District. It won’t take three days this time (I calculate nine hours), but it will be outdoors, or at least in a small marquee, on the northern shore of Coniston Water near the boating centre. We begin at 9am on September 3rd, 2017, and we’ll read until around 6pm. There will be tea, and possibly cake. Many volunteers have already signed up, but it’s free to all, so if you want to get involved, let me know which chapter you want to read (or share reading) here: ifnotduffers.org/