Collected Works CIC is a reader development organisation based in Brighton. The organisation delivers projects, events and activities based around spreading a shared love of reading to the community. One of their most popular initiatives is City Reads, an annual citywide reading festival which aims to spread a love of literature and ideas to a huge audience across Brighton & Hove. The concept is simple: one book by one author is selected for the whole community to read, discuss, debate and creatively engage with in a series of special events, workshops and performances. City Reads takes place during April and May, with the final event incorporated in the Brighton Festival. The book is announced in advance to give participants plenty of time to read it before the events begin. These events stretch across the entire city’s libraries, community centres and bookshops.
Brighton Festival have announced that this year Rose Tremain’s Sacred Country has been selected as Brighton & Hove’s City Read. Sacred Country tells the story of Mary Ward who one day stands shivering in a Suffolk, England field in February 1952 and realises she is meant to be a boy. She is six years old. From its opening pages Sacred Country vows to take the reader on a compelling literary journey through Mary’s fight to become Martin. Spanning three decades, from the oppressive English countryside of the 1950s, to London in the Swinging Sixties, to 1970’s America, Sacred Country follows Mary in her plight to find a place of safety and fulfilment in a savage and confusing world.
Rose Tremain remains one of only five women writers to feature in Granta’s original list of 20 Best of Young British Novelists in 1983, and was made a CBE in 2007. The acclaimed writer has been published worldwide in 27 countries. Sacred Country has been compared to Virginia Woolf’s iconic novel Orlando due to its reconsideration of the essence of gender. Apart from its undoubted literary merits, Sacred Country is a non-sensationalist reflection of the tribulations faced by trans individuals. Sacred Country won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1992 and the Prix Femina étranger two years later.
Fox Fisher, trans artist and activist said: ‘As a trans person myself, I never saw trans characters in books (or in ‘real life’, for that matter) growing up. Although Sacred Country is written by an author that isn’t trans, I was utterly gripped with the storyline and characters. The audiobook is read by a trans man which adds to the authenticity and is an example of the level of care and consideration when creating this book. As a film-maker, I could really visualise how well this would translate to a feature length fiction. And when the time comes, I hope the person to make the film is me!’
Sarah Hutchings, Artistic Director, City Reads commented: ‘Sacred Country tells the compelling story of Mary, born in the wrong body and their arduous journey to become Martin. Despite being written in 1992, Sacred Country is a novel that deserves to be re-discovered as it is still a hugely relevant work. Mary’s story is told with skill, compassion and empathy. Rose Tremain is one of the UK’s most respected writers and we are delighted to be welcoming her to Brighton & Hove in May to discuss this groundbreaking novel with readers across the City.’
Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival said: ‘We are delighted that City Reads is part of Brighton Festival again this year – building on our strong relationship with Collected Works through other partnership projects such as Young City Reads and Adopt an Author. To have a writer of the calibre of Rose Tremain as our selected author is particularly exciting and we look forward to people reading and enjoying the book together over the coming months.’
Featured image by Chris Boland
City Reads launches annually on World Book Night (23 April) and spans until the final event at Brighton Festival on 13th May. Organisers offer a huge range of activities as part of the project, aimed at encouraging residents across the City to generate ideas and debate around the chosen novel.
- Booky Photo Booth at Jubilee Library (23 April – 5 May)
- City Reads Book Quiz (25 April in Lewes and 2 May in Brighton)
- Impromptu Book Group podcast (April 26)
- Rose Tremain live (May 13 at Brighton Festival)
For more information on City Read visit http://cityreads.co.uk/