Looking back at Summer Solstice

On 21 June, an audience of literature enthusiasts, lovers of astronomy and archaeology and academics gathered on the stunning UNESCO Heritage site of Jodrell Bank to celebrate the Summer Solstice and one of the UK’s most influential contemporary novelists, Alan Garner. This day-long event, consisting of panels, screenings, and guided walks, paid tribute to Garner’s literary work and his profound connection to Alderley Edge.

The day commenced with a panel discussion on “Archaeotecture” chaired by Professor Teresa Anderson, with Professor Clive Ruggles and Professor Bob Cwyinski, to explore the intersection of ancient cosmologies and modern scientific discoveries. The panel discussed how Garner’s fiction has bridged dialogues between disciplines such as archaeology and physics, offering imaginative continuities that enrich our understanding of the universe. The discussions were a testament to Garner’s ability to weave complex, interdisciplinary ideas into his narratives, making his work a subject of academic interest and admiration.

One of the highlights of the day was “A Walk in Time” with archaeologist Melanie Giles. Participants were taken on a journey through the Jodrell Bank site, where Giles reflected on the objects and ideas that have inspired Garner’s writing. The walk included hands-on experiences with archaeological artefacts and replicas, bringing to life themes of landscape lore, craft skills, and protective charms that are prevalent in Garner’s novels.

Following the walk attendees were invited to a film screening of To The Round Meadow: Alan Garner & Jodrell Bank by Al Kenny. The film featured an intimate conversation between Alan Garner and his daughter, Elizabeth Garner, discussing his connection to the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank. This conversation delved into Garner’s personal memories and reflections on the site, highlighting how it has influenced his writing and enriched his imaginative landscapes.

The day continued with the panel discussion “Archaeology & the Imagination of Place” chaired by Melanie Giles. The panel, Tim Campbell-Green, Richard Morris, and Rose Ferraby, explored how Garner’s work, deeply rooted in the past, has woven archaeological knowledge, discoveries, and folklore into his narratives. Melanie Giles and Rose Ferraby discussed how their professional practices have been influenced and enriched by Garner’s storytelling and explorations of histories in the Cheshire landscape.

The final panel, “A Place Across Time” chaired by Professor John Mcauliffe, featured Elizabeth Garner and medieval scholar David Matthews. This discussion centred on the intersections of historical and mythological time within imaginative fictions, poetry, and actual landscapes, drawing on Alan Garner’s vivid depictions of place across time in his works.

In the evening our Solstice celebrations culminated with a reading and discussion of Sarah Perry’s latest novel, Enlightenment. Set in a small town in Essex, the novel intricately weaves a narrative of entangled relationships and emotional turmoil, exploring the conflict between faith and fact. Perry, renowned for her award-winning works such as The Essex Serpent, explored the novel’s themes with Chair Teresa Anderson, and wowed guests with her seamless integration of astronomical principles into the storytelling.

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