Kubla Khan bicentenary celebrations

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 “In Xanadu did Kubla Khan …”

Get involved in an exciting programme of poetry, art, walks, talks, film and competitions to celebrate the bicentenary of Coleridge’s visionary poem Kubla Khan. The project is being supported by the Arts Council.

Over two hundred years ago Coleridge retired to a remote farmhouse on Exmoor suffering from an attack of dysentery. Having taken laudanum, he began writing his visionary poem Kubla Khan, but claims he was interrupted by the famous person from Porlock. The resulting poem has deservedly become one of the nation’s favourites, with Coleridge’s extraordinary evocation of the kingdom of Xanadu. The Friends of Coleridge are celebrating the bicentenary of its publication. If you would like to be involved, browse the events listed below for more details.To read the poem, click here.

National/International Poetry Competition

Write a poem inspired by Kubla Khan under the theme ‘Imagined Worlds’. Your imagined world does not have to relate specifically to Kubla Khan, but we are looking for a vision as startling and original as Coleridge’s. Click here after 1st June for full details and entry form. The closing date is  now 5th September.

There are two categories, one for adults and one for poets 10 to 17 years of age. Prizes of £500 for the winning poem and £200 for two runners-up. There will also be prizes for the junior section.

The judging panel for the adults comprises Gregory Leadbetter, Liz Cashdan, and Ian Enters. Justin Shepherd, Chairman of the Friends of Coleridge will help with the judging of the junior section.

The awards night will be held on 21st October (Coleridge’s birthday) at CICCIC, Taunton.

Click here to access the Kubla Khan Poetry Competition Entry Form.


National Art Competition and touring exhibition

Somerset Art Works is managing this exciting venture. Artists are invited to create a painting inspired by Kubla Khan under the theme ‘Imagined Worlds’. Down the years some fine evocations of Coleridge’s poetry have been conjured by artists such as Doré. This is a unique opportunity for you to create a powerfully imagined world through your own art. The best paintings will be part of a touring and selling exhibition in Nether Stowey, Taunton and Bath. Visit http://somersetartworks.org.uk/2016/06/call-for-artists-imagined-world-exhibition/ for full details and how to enter.

Coleridge-inspired Walks

Porlock Weir to Ash Farm and back. Join a group following in the footsteps of Coleridge to the farmhouse where he is said to have written Kubla Khan. There will be readings en route and Coleridgeans will be on hand to give you insights into the poem and his life. 2nd July, 10.45. Meet for an 11am start at the Toll Gate, Worthy, near Porlock Weir (SS 858482). Bring a packed lunch. To park your car, pay toll and park through toll gate above residents’ parking.

The route: Walk up hill through Worthy Combe along Yearnor Mill Lane to Ash Farm. From Silcombe Farm return via Withycombe, Silcombe, Culbone, Yearnor Wood and Ashley Combe to Worthy Toll Gate (4 m approx.) Then continue, via a short drive, to Broomstreet Farm for tea and final readings.

Further information email tilla2b@gmail.com

Nether Stowey walks. 13th August or 27th August. 2pm. Meet after your visit to the National Trust Coleridge Cottage (where the walk begins), accompanied by local historians and poets. Coleridge lived in the Somerset village of Nether Stowey for three years from 1797. Here he wrote his most famous poetry and collaborated with Wordsworth on Lyrical Ballads. The village is rich in history and you can enjoy a guided walk. Email sandrasidaway@hotmail.com

Autumnal Quantock Hills walk: Nether Stowey to the Quantock hills and combes and back. Saturday 15th October. Meet at Coleridge Cottage at 12.00 (this National Trust property opens at 11am so you've time for a visit before the walk). This guided walk follows the start of the Coleridge Way, and takes in beautiful stretches of the Quantock Hills. There will be readings and insights into the Quantock countryside as Coleridge knew it and the area's natural history. The walk was well-trodden by Coleridge and the Wordsworths. Email sandrasidaway@hotmail.com

In and around Alfoxden and Holford with Coleridge and the Wordsworths. Saturday 12th November, 11am. meet at the Bowling Green carpark, Holford. Email sandrasidaway@hotmail.com

Somerset Film

Somerset Film, an organisation with an excellent reputation for creative work, is managing this exciting venture. A short film of Coleridge’s Kubla Khan being read by various voices will be created at the Engine Room in Bridgwater, just a street away from where Coleridge preached in the town’s Unitarian chapel. Details to follow.


Schools’ programme

In partnership with Somerset Art Works and Somerset Film, the Friends of Coleridge are arranging a programme of school workshops inspired by Kubla Khan / Imagined Worlds. Young people will explore their own ideas and creativity in response to Coleridge’s visionary poem. Schools signed up to the InspirED project will receive a resource pack and they will be invited to apply for placements with Alice Maddicott, poet and artist, or Christopher Jelley, poet and creative landscape technician. Somerset Film will be coordinating workshops to create broadcasts by children for Somerset Radio.

Coleridge-related Talks

Seamus Perry. The Museum of Somerset, Taunton Castle, Taunton, Somerset, 13 October, 7.30pm.
This noted Coleridge scholar and lecturer will give a talk on Kubla Khan. Tickets from Taunton Museum.

Ian McMillan – In Xanadu. Monday 27th June at the Church Centre, Nether Stowey, Bridgwater, Somerset, 7pm. This acclaimed poet and radio presenter will be talking in his inimitable style about Kubla Khan and the voices of the community. Tickets are available from the National Trust, Coleridge Cottage (coleridge.cottage@nationaltrust.org.uk) or telephone 01278 732662.

Liz Cashdan and Ian Enters – ‘Strangers in Somerset’. 14th September, Nether Stowey Library, 7pm for 7.30pm. Entry at the door £3.50. These two poets will be reading their own poetry in the light of Coleridge’s life and times. Arranged in coordination with the Friends of Nether Stowey Library.

Art Exhibition Launch Nights

When the Art Exhibition arrives in each of its three venues there will be a launch night at which music, poetry and film will be shared. Entry £5.


‘In Xanadu - Kubla Khan’ commemorative booklet

A beautifully illustrated gift book written by the Friends of Coleridge Chair Justin  Shepherd, is being published in October giving insights into the origins of the poem, Coleridge’s life, and how it has been received down the years by the literary world and the wider population. 36pp, 210 x 210mm. Pb, illustrated throughout in colour, £4.99. Available from the Friends of Coleridge, selected booksellers, and tourist centres.


Below is Coleridge’s own account of the gestation of the poem Kubla Khan:

“In the summer of the year 1797, the Author, then in ill health, had retired to a lonely farmhouse between Porlock and Linton, on the Exmoor confines of Somerset and Devonshire. In consequence of a slight indisposition, an anodyne had been prescribed, from the effects of which he fell asleep in his chair at the moment that he was reading the following sentence, or words of the same substance, in Purchas's Pilgrimage: "Here the Khan Kubla commanded a palace to be built, and a stately garden thereunto. And thus ten miles of fertile ground were inclosed with a wall." The Author continued for about three hours in a profound sleep, at least of the external senses, during which time he has the most vivid confidence, that he could not have composed less than from two to three hundred lines; if that indeed can be called composition in which all the images rose up before him as things, with a parallel production of the correspondent expressions, without any sensation or consciousness of effort. On awakening he appeared to himself to have a distinct recollection of the whole, and taking his pen, ink, and paper, instantly and eagerly wrote down the lines that are here preserved. At this moment he was unfortunately called out by a person on business from Porlock, and detained by him above an hour, and on his return to his room, found, to his no small surprise and mortification, that though he still retained some vague and dim recollection of the general purport of the vision, yet, with the exception of some eight or ten scattered lines and images, all the rest had passed away like the images on the surface of a stream into which a stone has been cast, but, alas! without the after restoration of the latter!”

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