About the Society
The Thomas Hardy Society is an educational Charity founded in 1968 with the intention of promoting public knowledge and understanding of the life and works of the Dorset poet and novelist to anyone with an interest in Thomas Hardy anywhere in the world. It is a Society as much for the lay-enthusiast as the scholar, student or general reader.
The Society is run by a Council of Management, which meets regularly in Dorchester, and has an office in the Dorset County Museum, staffed by volunteers. The Council of Management organizes an ongoing Programme of Events including regular lectures, concerts, poetry readings and guided walks through Hardy’s Wessex. Every year a special Birthday Weekend celebration is held on the weekend closest to Hardy’s Birthday (June 2nd); here, amongst other events, on the Saturday Dorchester Town Council pay tribute to their most famous citizen and on the Sunday a special service is held in Hardy’s home church at Stinsford.
The Society’s major event is the biennial International Thomas Hardy Festival and Conference, held in Dorchester over a 10-day period, usually at the start of the summer holidays. The Society originated from the first Thomas Hardy Festival held at Kingston Maurward in 1968 to mark the 40th anniversary of Hardy’s death. The current Conference and Festival is a vibrant mix of all things Hardyan, attracting delegates from every corner of the globe. A strong programme of lectures by leading academics in interspersed with poetry readings, seminars, research papers, concerts – both classical and in the folk tradition, specially commissioned dramatic productions and operas, and church services. There is a strong postgraduate student presence at the Conference including a series of postgraduate presentations. The conference includes a wide-ranging daily selection of walks, coach trips and tours into Hardy Country. Overall, it acts as a melting-pot for all things Hardyan where scholars and lay-enthusiasts can meet on equal terms to discuss and enjoy every aspect of Hardy, the novelist, poet, literary genius – and the Wessex, which is his creation. Celebrated Hardy enthusiasts at the 2010 Festival included Claire Tomalin, recent biographer of Hardy, Sir Andrew Motion, former Poet Laureate and the poets Christopher Reid and Brian Patten.
As well as holding events in and around Dorchester, the Hardy Society frequently visits ‘that wild weird western shore’ – Hardy’s Lyonnesse (Cornwall), holds an annual London lecture, has held meetings in recent years at both Oxford and Cambridge – and has a forthcoming meeting at Aldeburgh in Suffolk. The Society has a number of self-managing subsidiaries including its Northern branch, based in Sheffield and a Coventry and Warwickshire branch plus an active Postgraduate branch.
The Society publishes its own journal with three editions per annum – two Thomas Hardy Society Journals and an autumn Thomas Hardy Journal, which has a greater academic content. The Society produces a range of booklets and leaflets and sells other Hardyan merchandise.