The rescheduled conference IS STILL GOING AHEAD!

The Twenty-Fourth International Thomas Hardy Festival and Conference

*** Our rescheduled conference is STILL GOING AHEAD despite the delay to 'Freedom Day'. Under government guidelines we are permitted to hold the event while adhering to Covid regulations. Please do come and join us for a highlight of this coming Summer! ***

Dorchester, Dorset, England

Saturday 10th July – Saturday 17th July 2021

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Despite curtailments caused by Covid-19, lockdowns, social distancing and international travel restrictions, our postponed 24th Festival and Conference is very definitely going ahead this July – with all appropriate measures in place to comply with anti-viral regulations.

Inevitably in this strange new world, some of the speakers and participants originally booked for July 2020 will not be able to join us in July 2021. However, we have a comprehensive programme of events planned. Small may well be beautiful – and certainly will not reduce the intensity of the experience. Judging from the popularity of the few actual events that we have been able to hold over the past year, our members are just glad to be allowed to meet again and enjoy once more the world of Hardyan study and appreciation.

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 is being co-ordinated by Mark Chutter, our new Academic Director. Lecturers include Professor Jane Thomas, Professor Pamela Gilbert, Luke Rake, Mark Chutter and Professor Simon Olding. 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 be considerable involvement of local schools in this year’s festival. There will be two talks on paintings of Hardy’s Landscape, a painting workshop and several talks on Hardy related local projects.

Alan Johnson, former Government minister and MP, and renowned Hardyan, will be a keynote speaker of our Festival, and Julie Christie will give intimate readings of her favourite Hardy pieces. A personal recording created especially for The Thomas Hardy Society in 2021.

Poets booked include Pascale Petit and Mark Ford. The entertainment programme will start with a barn dance led by The Casterbridge Band on the Sunday evening; there will be a preview of the New Hardy Players forthcoming production of The Mayor of Casterbridge; there will be a dramatic presentation of ‘Hardy meets M.R. James: An Evening of Ghosts and Gothic’; there will be a Hardy Quiz and a 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 visit to Stourhead, a musical Under the Greenwood Tree walk with the Thompsons, an Exploration of Durnover (Fordington), a Tess tour, a Puddletown walk, a Budmouth and Isle of Slingers walk, a Beaminster and Bridport Tour and a Purbeck walk. Full particulars of these outings and booking details will appear shortly on our website.

Download the THS Conference Accommodation at Kingston Maurward College Booking form here.

Meanwhile, do book your place for what promises to be a most exciting Conference and Festival!

Programme of Events:

Saturday 10th July 11am - 6pm: Registration              

                                             6.30: Drinks Reception followed by Welcome Dinner

                                             9pm: Julie Christie - 'Touched by Hardy' 

Sunday 11th July 10am: Service at St Michael's Church in Stinsford, following by the laying of the Hardy Memorial Stone previously at Westminster Abbey

                                            2.30pm: Ed Bourne - A Life With Hardy's Landscapes, an illustrated art lecture

                                            7.30pm: A Barn Dance with The Casterbridge Band

Monday 12th July 9.15am: Keynote Lecture - Luke Rake 'Tess at Kingston Maurward-An Exploration of a Writer's Muse'

                                             11.00am: Call For Papers Session 1 - 'Past and Present'

                                             3.30pm: Tim Laycock presents The Mayor of Casterbridge - an NHP Preview 

                                             6pm: Harriet Still presents The Wessex Museums Project

                                             7pm: Come on a mindful journey through the woods of Thomas Hardy's youth. Artists Sharon Hayden and Alastair Nisbet launch their audio app                                                          Rites of Way with Mr Hardy at Hardy’s Birthplace Visitor Centre

                                             8.15pm: Pascale Petit - An Evening of Poetry and Conversation

Tuesday 13th July 9.15am: Keynote Lecture - Professor Simon Olding 'Brian Graham's Paintings of Egdon Heath'

                                             11am: Call For Papers Session 2 - 'Idiosyncratic Modes of Regard'

                                             3pm: Post-Graduate Welcome and Forum

                                             6.30pm: Book Launch at Waterstone's - Richard Franklin 'Hardy and Religion'

                                             8pm: Professor Mark Ford - An Evening of Poetry and Conversation

Wednesday 14th July 9.15am: Keynote Lecture - Professor Pamela Gilbert 'Temporalities and the Body in A Laodicean'

                                              11am: Call For Papers Session 3 - 'Hardy and Others'

                                              2pm: A Painting Workshop with Gilly Lacey

                                              7pm: Philip Lange Recital - 'The Pianist of Casterbridge: Playing Works Contemporary with Hardy and a Schubert Sonata' at St. Mary's Church

Thursday 15th July 9.15am: Keynote Lecture - Professor Jane Thomas 'Desperate Remedies: Hardy's Youthful Manifesto'

                                              11am: Call For Papers Session 4 - 'Hardy the Radical'

                                              3pm: The Common Reader Seminar

                                              6.30pm: The Thomas Hardy Quiz

                                              8pm: 'When Thomas Hardy Met M.R. James - An Evening of Ghosts and Gothic'

Friday 16th July 9.15am: Keynote Lecture - Mark Chutter '"Vice ran freely": The White Apron, The Skimmity and Subversve Religion in Hardy's Mixen Lane'

                                              11am: Hardy Question Time - with Dr Tony Fincham, Professor Jane Thomas, Dr Hugh Epstein, and Dr Steph Meek

                                              6.30pm: Farewell Dinner

                                              8.30pm: Tatterdemalion and Tim Laycock present 'Satires of Circumstance'

Saturday 17th July 9.15am: Thomas Hardy Society 53rd Annual General Meeting

                                              11am: Alan Johnson - 'Thomas Hardy and My Life in Books'

                                               12 Noon - Close

Programme of Walks and Tours:

All walks & Tours start from Sunninghill School

Sunday 11th July 9.30 am Stourhead Revisited Led by Andrew & Marilyn Leah
A visit to the magnificent home and garden of Hardy’s friend Lady Alda Hoare, highlighting their two lost heirs. National Trust members please bring cards; for others there will be an entry fee of £15 payable on the day. Price £20

Sunday 11th July 1.30 pm Hardy’s Fordington Led by Mark Chutter & Alistair Chisholm
A walk through Hardy’s Durnover (The Mayor of Casterbridge & The Dynasts), across Salisbury Fields to Fordington Vicarage, where the new information board will be officially unveiled by the Mayor Gareth Jones and Town Crier Alistair Chisholm. Here Christine Chutter will talk about living in the Vicarage and the links between Hardy and Horace Moule and professional singer Olivia Carstairs will perform an eclectic range of Dorset Songs. Thence to the Church of Fordington Saint George and the Moule graves followed by a stroll along Mill Street (Mixen Lane) to finish with refreshments from ‘Bean on the Green’. Price: £5

Monday 12th July 1.30 pm Hardy’s Puddletown Led by Alban O’Brien
An exploration of Weatherbury: A walk around the village that was closest to Thomas Hardy and his family as he was growing up, with stories of the many cousins, uncles and aunts who lived there. We will see where Fanny Robin’s grave was washed away in Far from The Madding Crowd, visit the church where his grandfather first led the choir and walk to the Eweleaze near Weatherbury of the poem. An easy walk of 2 miles with a slight ascent of 44 metres. Price £15

Tuesday 13th July 1.30 pm Under the Greenwood Tree: music and dance Led by Tony Fincham

Join fiddlers Colin and Ruth Thompson for a musical recreation of Under the Greenwood Tree, progressing from Tranter Reuben’s (Hardy’s Cottage) in the footsteps of Dick and Fancy along Snail Creep to Keeper Day’s Cottage in the heart of Yell’ham Wood, for music and dancing under the Greenwood Tree.

(Less than 2 miles easy walking). Price: £15

Wednesday 14th July 1.30 pm A Tess of the d’Urbervilles Tour Led by Alban O’Brien
A Tess themed coach tour of Hardy country. We will travel along the valley of the Piddle to Marnhull (Marlott), to see the church where Sorrow was buried and the Pure Drop Inn. Following in Tess’s footsteps we then cross the Valley of the Little Dairies, drive over Okeford Hill and descend into the Valley of the Frome for the D’Urberville church at Bere Regis and a view of Tess’s honeymoon retreat with Angel Clare. 4 hours with short stops at Marnhull, Bere Regis and Wool. Price: £15

Wednesday 14th July 1.30 pm A STAND (Save The Area North of Dorchester) Walk Led by Alistair Chisholm

We shall walk to the pedestrian crossing by the war memorial and make our way up South Street to Cornhill. We’ll cross into North Square, with its wonderful views over the DOR 13 site, down Friary Hill turning left at the Millstream, pass John’s Pond to cross the Blue Bridge and up to the Frome Whitfield Road (ak(wrongly)a “Slyers Lane”), walk east along the road and turn south in the dip to cross Mayo’s land (on a public footpath) and the County Showground site to Grey’s Bridge and back into town along the London Road. Price: £5

Thursday 15th July 1.30 pm Hardy’s Isle of Slingers: The Well-Beloved Led by Tony Fincham

An exploration of all the highlights of the mystical island of Portland in a series of short walks with wonderful coastal views, including The Street of the Wells, Avice’s Cottage, Rufus Castle, Hope Cove, The Beal and St. George’s Reforne. Less than 5 miles walking with occasional steep gradients. Price: £15

Friday 16th July 1.30 pm Beaminster and Bridport Led by Sue Clarke
Touring along the Jurassic Coast for a stop at Lyme Regis home of Mary Anning. Then inland returning via Beaminster for magnificent views and Hardy 's thoughts on the history of the landscape and the characters that walked this way.' Price: £15

Friday 16th July 1.30 pm Hardy’s Purbeck: Eliza Nicholls & Ethelberta Led by Tony Fincham

An easy circular walk of just over one mile to Heaven’s Gate with superb views along the coast from St Alban’s Head to Kimmeridge and beyond and north over the Isle of Purbeck towards Poole Harbour, Brownsea Island & Corfe Castle. Then stop at Kimmeridge Bay for a short steep walk up to Clavell Tower. Wessex Poems – especially the ‘she to Him’ sequence. The Hand of Ethelberta & A Pair of Blue Eyes. Price: £15


Car Parking: 

Parking is available at Sunninghill School and must be booked in advance. For full conference delegates this is free, for people attending individual events, there is a fee of £5 per day.

*** Full conference delegates need only book for a ticket for the first day to be recorded for the whole week ***

Tickets available here:


Download the Conference Flyer and Manual Booking Form Here


If you have any queries, including registering dietary requirements, please contact the THS Secretary - Tracy Hayes - on or 07867 666737



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