Free novels exploring Black Country folklore offered to museum fans
The University of Wolverhampton has teamed up with Black Country Living Museum to give away 25 free copies of a historical Black Country novel written by local writer, Rob Francis.
Rob, a graduate of the University and Creative and Professional Writing Lecturer in the University’s School of Humanities, wrote his novel, Bella, as part of his PhD. The novel is a folk horror story set in Netherton and Dudley and is loosely based around the local Bella and the Wych Elm mystery. The book was published by Wild Pressed Books earlier this year.
The free electronic copies are on offer to Black Country Living Museum Twitter followers and subscribers to the Museum’s newsletter.
Sebastian Groes, Professor of English Literature at the University who heads up the University’s Centre for Transnational and Transcultural Research said: “The impact of the Covid-19 crisis can be felt everywhere. The Arts and Humanities in particular have been affected, whilst writers and other creatives too are feeling the effects of the pandemic.
“However, we have also seen that people have flocked back to an activity that gives them a sense of escape from this anxious time: reading. Research has shown that reading fiction has a beneficial effect on people’s mental health and helps them relax so it’s not a surprise that people have (re-)embraced their passion for literature.
"We thought using Rob's recent success would be a great way to help people connect with place, home and local community. At the moment, we find support by engaging with people in the region. It's more vital than ever that people have access to fiction, and to give them the opportunity to connect with each other through the Humanities."
Rob said: “I'm absolutely thrilled that Bella is going to be read by Black Country Living Museum fans, especially this year with so many of us missing out on so much due to the pandemic.
“At its heart, my novel is a ghost story steeped in folk horror traditions so it seems apt to use it as a giveaway for a Christmas read, following the festive traditions of M.R. James and Charles Dickens. Bella is a love song to the Black Country, showcasing the upheaval and difficulties facing the working-classes of post-industrial communities.
“Set in Dudley, the novel follows several characters from different eras, attempting to understand the strange pull the local woods have, with focus on oral traditions of storytelling, using Black Country dialects and the different voices of multicultural Britain.”
A research project, run by the University of Wolverhampton and the Dutch Huygens Institute that is looking at readers’ opinions about the literary quality of contemporary fiction, was recently launched at the Being Human Festival in conjunction with ‘My Name is Leon’ author Kit de Waal.
During the crisis, the University’s School of Humanities organised a range of subject podcasts and virtual events, including a Book Club and a Kazuo Ishiguro Masterclass. Bella was also given away to students during the first lockdown.
Together with the local poet and author, Professor Groes has organised a series of events that celebrate Black Country culture, including the Being Human Festival event that conducted research into the region’s smells.
Groes’ team also launched the ‘2020 Reader Review’ survey, the largest ever assessment of contemporary fiction. BBC Arts and the University of Wolverhampton have launched a similar quiz to that shared in the online session that asks people to judge book covers where the name and title have been taken out.
Take the quiz here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/articles/zdxw4xs
‘Novel Perceptions: towards an inclusive canon’ received £300,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) earlier this year.
Anyone interested in studying in the School of Humanities or for more information about the range of courses on offer including Creative Writing and English Literature should register for one of our Virtual Open Days in 2021.
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