Tolkien: Festival of the Shires

A clash of JRRT-inspred events. Tolkein fans have a choice of events over the same weekend, one in Wales and the other in Moreton-in-Marsh (see previous listing). Here’s the press release:

“Wales will become a world centre for Tolkien fans next year when a landmark gathering of scholars and devotees takes place. Orcs and hobbits will brush shoulders with leading academics and illustrators as the international event takes place in Machynlleth at a time of growing appreciation for Welsh language and mythology’s influence on JRR Tolkien’s universe. August’s Festival in the Shire is the brainchild of local book dealer Mark Faith, who hopes the town and surrounding communities will benefit economically from the festival. He believes up to 10,000 people could attend what he describes as a ‘Glastonbury of Tolkien’.

The success of the Lord of the Rings films has created a fresh generation of Tolkien aficionados, and the Hobbit films due for release in 2012 and 2013 will keep the author at the forefront of the public’s imagination. Among the participants will be Dimitra Fimi of the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, who has detailed how Tolkien drew inspiration from Welsh culture.

As a child growing up in Birmingham, Tolkien was fascinated by the Welsh names on the coal trucks which arrived at the station behind his house. He adapted Welsh grammar in the creation of imaginary languages, most strikingly when crafting Sindarin, the language of the Grey Elves of Middle Earth. As a scholar, he delved into the texts such as the Mabinogion and Arthurian legends, forged friendships with Welsh academics, and contributed to the New Welsh Review. He directly acknowledged Wales’ influence on place names in his 1955 O’Donnell Lecture, English and Welsh, which was delivered at Oxford the day after the publication of The Return of the King. Stressing the importance of linguistics, Dr Fimi said: ‘For Tolkien, it was the beginning of everything in a way. First came the word and then came the story.’

The Festival in the Shire is a gathering of academics, collectors and fantasy fans who are encouraged to come in costume. Dr Fimi, who is the author of Tolkien, Race and Cultural History and recently contributed to the History Channel’s Clash of the Gods mythology documentary series, looks forward to the convergence of these three very different groups. She said: ‘Literature is something that’s very much alive and we can’t just keep it in our glass castles. The great thing about fiction is it still excites people very much. Literature is not something dead we can dissect and analyse. It’s very much part of peoples’ lives. I welcome the participation of the fans. After all, they are the ones reading it.’

Some visitors will be drawn by displays of original art, rare books – including first editions and items from private collections – and memorabilia, but the organisers hope families will enjoy Tolkien-inspired drama and music and Celtic crafts. Mr Faith said: ‘My love for the geography and culture of this area is in part connected to my love of Tolkien’s books. This will turn into an annual event that will help local business and our community. We’re in the heart of Celtic culture here. Everything has a dragon on it and everybody speaks Elvish – which is Welsh.’ He is keen that the local population will embrace the festival and welcome fans from around the world. ‘We want people to get dressed up as hobbits,’ he said. ‘Let’s have some fun.’

The festival will run at The Pavilion, Pontrhydfendigaid, August 13-15 this summer. Further information for the event is available here.”