The Trollope Society AGM: Chairman’s Report

Michael Williamson, Chairman of The Trollope Society, gave his report on the activities of the Society at the Annual General Meeting held at the National Liberal Club in London on 29 October.

The Bicentenary has been both memorable and enjoyable with commemorative events taking place all around the globe. There have, of course, been all of the usual seminar groups around the UK – in London, Manchester, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Oxford, and York – which have continued to meet to discuss books by Trollope that they have read. The Society also took part in the annual Open Day at Kensal Green Cemetery where Trollope is buried.

The first major commemorative event was the Balloonathon which saw bio-degradable balloons released in every country visited by Trollope including the United States, Australia, and the various islands of the West Indies. A free novel by Trollope was given to every person who returned one of the labels from a balloon wherever it landed.

The year also saw the discovery of a family photograph of the Trollopes in Australia.

Two key events were held during the actual week of the Bicentenary. The first was a reception at the Irish Embassy in London, hosted by the Ambassador, to mark the launch of a major new academic work on Trollope by John McCourt, Writing The Frontier: Anthony Trollope Between Britain and Ireland, published by Oxford University Press. The second was a dinner held at the Athenaeum Club in London – the first time that it has hosted such an event for a third party. One of the speakers at the dinner was Julian Fellowes, producer of Downton Abbey, who announced that he will be producing a new adaptation of Dr Thorne in 2016 for broadcast by ITV (in the UK).

A few weeks later the Society held an event with readings from several novels at St George’s, Bloomsbury, to mark the anniversary of Trollope’s christening.

There have been a number of talks and exhibitions to mark the Bicentenary, notably at the Lowewood museum (close to the site of Trollope’s long time home after his success) and by the Post Office.  Their “Pop It In The Post” exhibition is touring the UK and is currently at Mansfield.

The Post Office also issued commemorative stamps and a First Day Cover to celebrate Trollope and plaques were affixed to six pillar boxes in central London at or close to the sites of the earliest pillar boxes installed in the UK at Trollope’s suggestion.

The Trollope Society hosted the Alliance of Literary Societies AGM at the King’s Manor in York with a dinner taking place in the Hall of the Council of the North.

During the Summer, representatives of the Trustees and Committee of the Society attended the Celebration of the Life of Pelham Ravenscroft who for many years up to his death had been the administrator of the Society.

In September a new play, Lady Anna: All at Sea, written by rising playwright Craig Baxter, was staged at the Park Theatre in Finsbury Park. Both the play and the director have been nominated for awards.

The Paul Druwe Fund for Trollope Studies at the University of Leuven in Belgium staged a conference on Trollope, organised by Frederick van Dam.

The Bicentenary was marked by the publication of four important new works:

  • The First Celebrity: Anthony Trollope’s Australasian Odyssey by Dr Nigel Starck
  • Writing The Frontier: Anthony Trollope Between Britain and Ireland by Professor John McCourt
  • Dispossession by Dr Simon Grennan
  • The Duke’s Children by Anthony Trollope with fully restored text by Professor Steven Amarnick

This last book is an important addition to the Trollope canon which had been made publicly available for the first time including some 65,000 words deleted from the manuscript in previously published editions.  The Folio Society limited edition of 2,000 copies is selling much more quickly than anticipated and it is expected that a trade hardback edition will be published in early 2017.

The final celebratory events of the year will take place on 4th December. There will be a ceremony in Westminster Abbey to mark the rededication of the plaque commemorating Trollope in Poets’ Corner. This ceremony will include a wreath-laying by the Duke of Kent and will feature readings and a specially commissioned work for the cello to be played by Vivian Williams. This ceremony will be followed by a dinner at the House of Lords hosted by the Bishop of London.

Michael concluded his report with thanks to a number of people whose work during the year had contributed greatly to the success of the Bicentenary including:

  • Christina Dunford for adminstration
  • Pamela Barrell and Dominic Edwardes for Trollopiana 
  • Pamela Morgan for membership administration
  • Susan Cooper for Society Secretary duties

Michael made a presentation to Pamela Barrell for ten years service as editor of Trollopiana from which role she is standing down following the publication of the recent final issue of the Bicentenary year.

A collection was made with donations going towards the funds raised by the Society for the publication of Royal National Institute for the Blind talking book editions of two further books by Trollope to follow on from the edition of The Vicar of Bulhampton already financed by the Society.

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