European Network ‘In Stevenson’s Footsteps’ Edinburgh 2012

On Friday 16th November 2012, the Long John Silver Trust will be attending the 3rd Meeting of the European Network ‘In Stevenson’s Footsteps’ in Edinburgh.

There will be an introduction by the President of our hosts, the RLS Club, followed by details of the concept of a European Cultural Route, its definition, challenges and prospects for our territories.

Each delegation will then make a presentation of their projects. For your interest I have laid out ours below: –
The Long John Silver Statue Trust, Foundation, History and Project

  • Robert Louis Stevenson is an internationally-acclaimed literary giant and has been recognised as such throughout the world in literary clubs, trails, museums and public buildings. But although he partially set his masterpiece, Treasure Island, in Bristol, there is no commemoration of this at present.
  • The Long John Silver Trust (LJST) was set up in 2005 to advance the literary and maritime heritage of Bristol through the medium of the Robert Louis Stevenson link, and the story of Treasure Island, which was launch book for Bristol’s (and Britain’s) first Great Reading Adventure of 2003.
  • We believe that our aims are in keeping with Bristol City Council’s heritage priorities of Education, Health and Well-being, and Cultural representation by centering on a Trail that encourages walking and exploring Bristol’s past.
  • Bristol has also been home to many literary figures. Poets and writers such as More, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey and Swift while earlier, Daniel Defoe interviewed marooned mariner Alexander Selkirk in Bristol before writing his classic Robinson Crusoe of 1719 – the first ever novel in English.
  • Whilst convalescing in Davos Robert Louis Stevenson met the Bristol classicist John Addington Symonds, who not only mentored the budding author, but gave him accounts of Bristol’s history, characters and heritage.
  • The early action of Treasure Island was set in the West Country, and the famous voyage of the Hispaniola was planned, provisioned and sailed from Bristol.  Many of the characters were based on historical truth and RLS weaves descriptions of the harbourside, its inns and population into a believable and gripping tale.
  • RLS has international drawing-power, and the LJST is working with the RLS Club of Edinburgh and the French Association “Sur le Chemin de R. L. Stevenson” regarding an application to come under the Council of Europe’s “Cultural Route” label.
  • We are aiming for an RLS Bristol Treasure Island Trail to be established as a launch partner with the Association. The Trail would consist of a series of seven information points around the Harbourside, in locations which can be linked to real people and places who were the basis for Stevenson’s characters and locations. Identification markers from historic King Street to M Shed are proposed, supplemented by leaflets, podcasts and Apps.  If the Trail is successful we will then strive for a statue of Long John Silver.
  • We are seeking the necessary permissions to create this Trail, which we believe will greatly enhance Bristol’s international appeal and reputation for literary and maritime heritage; benefiting citizens and visitors alike.

The purpose of the RLS Bristol Treasure Island Trail is to advertise to residents and visitors alike, the cultural and literary links between one of literature’s greatest authors Robert Louis Stevenson, his world-famous work, Treasure Island, and some of the rich maritime history of Bristol along with its historic Floating Harbour.

The Trail is sponsored by the Long John Silver Trust (LJST), a registered charity in England and Wales. We were founded after Bristol’s hugely successful first Great Reading Adventure in 2003, where Treasure Island was chosen as its launch book. Calls for a sculpture of Silver in the city had been made as far back as the 1990’s by members of Bristol Civic Society.

Our charter includes:-
“The promotion of the enhancement and improvement of the Area of Benefit [Bristol] for the benefit of inhabitants and…the advancement of art, literature and education for the benefit of the public by…..the provision and maintenance of such artefacts in Bristol relating to the Classic novel Treasure Island as are capable of furthering these objects.”

Our remit also includes the objectives of being “inclusive” and “educational”, and we see these as extending to all parts of the community. We have formed strategic partnerships with a range of associated groups in Bristol including special needs charity PROPS (where we embark annually on a Treasure Island Cruise) and the Matthew sailing ship. We regularly perform readings and re-enactments of the Treasure Island story. We’ve worked with the Bristol Old Vic and most recently took part in the 2012 Bristol Festival of Literature.

We are aiming for the RLS Bristol Treasure Island Trail to be a launch partner in the proposed Cultural Route, initially with centres in Europe – Scotland, France, England, Belgium and possibly Switzerland. These will hopefully be enhanced to cover the world-wide interest in RLS; in the USA (New York State, California and Hawaii), Australia and the Pacific Islands, most notably Samoa.

By sitting alongside existing heritage trails in Bristol we hope to enhance our own educational aspect by visiting locations which were not only important in the City’s maritime past, but also open up key chapters and characters in Stevenson’s classic story Treasure Island relating the tale in sequence.

Many versions of Treasure Island have been published, but the Eyre and Spottiswoode version, published in 1949 has pictures by the world famous illustrator and author Mervyn Peake. His son Sebastian Peake, curator of the Mervyn Peake archives, (now in the British Library), is a Patron of the Long John Silver Trust and has kindly granted us permission to use some of the illustrations on our proposed place markers.

Sir Andrew Motion, former Poet Laureate, whose sequel Return to Treasure Island has just been published, said in support of our project:-
“I’m very pleased to know the shade and spirit of Long John Silver are being commemorated in the places where he haunted. It’s an idea which is delightful in itself, and will bring delight (and the shivers) to everyone involved.”

Treasure Island has never been out of print and has enthralled countless millions of children since it was first published in 1883, consistently featuring in the Top 100 books of all time. Most of these children first learnt of the City of Bristol through this experience.

We want to use a treasure map as the back-cloth to our part of the Bristol story (a pirate treasure map first evolved in literature in Bristol in 1815), telling people about our joint themes using the topography of the Harbourside and some of Bristol’s historic inns, wharves, bridges and caves. This map format will also enable us to differentiate our Trail from other plaques in the city.

Treasure Island contained recognition of disability and ethnicity, elements rarely found in works of fiction in Stevenson’s time. His fictional character Long John Silver, a retired one-legged pirate, was landlord and cook at the ‘Spyglass Inn’ in Bristol and married to a former black slave.

After the huge success of Treasure Island, RLS lived in Bournemouth for a while but was struck down by illness yet again. To amuse himself he wrote up “Places where I have slept” and this included Bristol. He then went on to write another of his critically acclaimed masterpieces “Kidnapped”.

It is our belief that in his own inimitable way, Robert Louis Stevenson brought together elements of Bristol’s adventurous past in a most exciting and accessible format. This is something we maintain should be permanently on display in the city he inadvertently promoted.”

Below is the logo of our international partners: –ECR Network PartnersThrough our involvement with our partners we’ve (just like Stevenson before us) inadvertently become ambassadors for Bristol.  We do so hope whoever is elected Mayor of Bristol in the forthcoming elections likes our ideas and plans and is prepared to help make them become a reality.

Mark Steeds   –  Secretary of the Long John Silver Trust

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