The twenty-fourth International THS Conference and Festival
From Saturday 11th July 2020 until Saturday 18th July 2020
Starts 09:00 until 12:00
Sunninghill School, South Walks Rd, Dorchester, Dorset, DT1 1EB

The Twenty-Fourth International

Thomas Hardy Festival and Conference

Dorchester, Dorset, U.K.

Saturday 11th July - Saturday 18th July 2020

2020 marks the 180th anniversary of Thomas Hardy's birth and the 150th anniversary of his first visit to Cornwall and his magical meeting with Emma, who was to become his companion, wife, and muse. She was the inspiration not only of his fiction - especially the semi-autobiographical A Pair of Blue Eyes - but in her death generating his veteris vestigia flammae, possibly the most profound sequence of poems charting love and loss in the English language.

In July 2020 we will be celebrating both the fiction of England's greatest novelist and the wonderful Wessex landscape which inspired it, and also the poetry of England's greatest poet, and the influence he has subsequently had upon further generations of successful poets. Our opening event will be a poetry performance by one of the most celebrated of current English poets - Wendy Cope. This will be followed during the week by readings from a series of renowned modern poets: Pascale Petit, Alison Brackenbury, and Mark Ford.

The Festival and Conference will be based this time at Sunninghill School in the South Walks, Dorchester - once the home of Alfred Pope, brewer and friend of Thomas Hardy. The academic programme has been co-ordinated by Dr Faysal Mikdadi, our new Academic Director, himself a highly respected novelist and poet. Lecturers for 2020 include Professor Michael Irwin, Professor Dame Gillian Beer, Professor Richard Nemesvari, Professor Pamela Gilbert, and Dr Gregory Tate. The 'Call for Papers' sessions - to be kept in their new morning plenary position - will involve talks from new and established Hardy scholars from around the world. There will also be considerable involvement of local schools in this year's festival. Alan Johnson, former MP, will be closing the conference with a talk on his latest book Hey Jude, the Obscure.

The entertainment programme will start with a barn dance led by The Casterbridge Band on the Sunday evening; the New Hardy Players will be performing 'Tea with Mr Hardy' at Max Gate; there will be a dramatic presentation of 'Hardy meets M.R. James: a Night of Ghosts and Gothic', a Hardy Quiz and a Hardy Question Time; and after the farewell dinner, Tatterdemalion and Tim Laycock will perform their musical rendition of Hardy's Satires of Circumstance.

The walks and tours will include a circumnavigation of The Isle of Slingers (Portland), a musical Under The Greenwood Tree walk led by the Thompsons, a Dorchester History walk, an exploration of Durnover (Fordington), a Trumpet-Major walk, a Tess tour, a reprise of 'A Group of Noble Houses', and a Purbeck walk. 

Please book your place for what promises to be a most exciting Conference and Festival!

If you would like information or advice on booking accommodation, please contact

Cheques, made out to The Thomas Hardy Society, may be sent to The Thomas Hardy Society c/o Dorchester Town Council, 19 North Square, Dorchester, Dorset, DT1 1JF.

This year the Festival and Conference will be held at an entirely new venue - Sunninghill School - in South Walks Road, Dorchester, right near the town centre. It is a house which was familiar to Thomas Hardy, designed and built by his former employer James Crickmay in 1892 for Hardy's friend Alfred Pope, one of the founders of the Eldrige Pope Brewery.

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Festival & Conference Fees:

THS Members £250

Student Members £60

Non-members and Guests of Members £275

Deposit per person on booking £70

Deposit per student member on booking £10

NB: Deposit only refunded if cancellation received before 1st May.

The Festival and Conference fee includes attendance at all lectures, talks, seminars, poetry readings and evening entertainments, as well as dinner on the first night and the farewell party on the last night. There are additional charges for the excursions and walks. As demand for places is likely to be high, an early reservation is recommended!

For any enquiries please contact the THS Secretary - Dr Tracy Hayes. Email: or Mobile: 07867 666737

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