phone mail2 facebook twitter play whatsapp
A Book Lover’s Guide to Bristol
Image Credit: Jon Craig, Bristol Shakespeare Festival 2015

A Book Lover’s Guide to Bristol

9 July 2017 | Charlotte Bailey

Bristol’s literary scene has many claims to fame ranging from the early 1700s to the present day. Not only is it the city to have inspired the very first English novel, Bristol has also played host to readings from the likes of Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde. With the annual Bristol Shakespeare Festival currently underway, now seems like the perfect time to remind ourselves of the city’s rich literary heritage.

Links with Literary Figures
 
The Llandoger Trow is known to many Bristolians for its buzzing atmosphere. However, many book lovers may not be aware that this blooming pub was a vital source of inspiration for Daniel Defoe while he was writing Robinson Crusoe (1719); arguably the first English novel. It was here that Defoe met Alexander Selkirk who sparked the idea for his novel – little did they know that it would go on to pioneer a whole genre of fiction.


Image Credit: Michiel Jelijs, Llandoger Trow
 
Another author affiliated with the city is Jane Austen, known to have spent time in Bristol with her family, particularly in the Clifton area. This cultural hub added finesse to Austen’s novels: even Blaise Castle Estate, a folly located in Bristol, received a mentioned in Northanger Abbey (1817). Austen expanded her horizons even further to Bath, a neighbouring city to Bristol, and many Bath locations can be noted throughout her novels.


Image Credit: Adrian Scottow, Blaise Castle
 
More recently, J.K. Rowling’s work has used the unique people of Bristol as inspiration for her world-famous Harry Potter series. Rowling was brought up in Chipping Sodbury – a few miles from the city of centre of Bristol – and is alleged to have met a teenage boy in the city who much later became the inspiration for Harry himself.
 
Literary Tours and Festivals
 
Bristol’s Treasure Island Trail celebrates none other than Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island (1883), which was partly set in the city. The trail is marked by eight wine barrels placed in locations that are relevant to the novel, such as King Street and M Shed on Bristol’s Floating Harbour. Each barrel on the trail is printed with an extract from Treasure Island to read, and contains unique facts about Bristol’s maritime history.


Image Credit: Paul Townsend, King Street
 
Calling all Shakespeare fans: the Bristol Shakespeare Festival continues to bring some of the most unique productions of Shakespeare’s plays to scenic locations all over Bristol throughout the month of July. The festival has been running for fourteen years, and has included productions from The Lord Chamberlain’s Men and Shakespeare’s Globe as well as youth groups. This fresh and unique festival is run entirely by volunteers, from managing the box office to selling programmes, and is a great way for any Bristolian book lovers to help out in their local literary community.


Image Credit: Jon Craig, Bristol Shakespeare Festival 2015
 
Spoken Word & Theatre

Built in 1841, the Victoria Rooms have hosted various literary figures over the years. Dickens and his friend and fellow author Wilkie Collins were known to have performed two plays here in 1851, with Dickens giving a variety of readings to large audiences. Although the building now belongs to the University of Bristol, Oscar Wilde was also known to have spoken in the Victoria Rooms, allegedly giving an extensive account on aesthetics to a roomful of eager listeners.


Image Credit: Heather Cowper, Victoria Rooms
 
The Bristol Old Vic is based in the city centre and has seen a myriad of plays being performed since being opened in 1766. Productions from the theatre have toured all around the world with Measure for Measure going on to be performed in America, while A Man for all Seasons was taken to Ceylon and Pakistan in 1962 and 1963. In fact, this theatre continues to promote the importance of the arts since the opening of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in 1946. Here, a six-month contract is offered to two graduating actors thanks to the Peter O’Toole prize.  


Image Credit: David McKelvey, Bristol Old Vic

Tell us what you think

You may also like

Dance the Night Away: Top 5 UK Clubs

Dance the Night Away: Top 5 UK Clubs

There’s been a great deal of concern over UK nightlife in recent years, with council cuts having forced the closure of some of the country’s best…

DIDO, QUEEN OF CARTHAGE at the Swan Theatre

DIDO, QUEEN OF CARTHAGE at the Swan Theatre

See Christopher Marlow’s rarely told story of one of history’s greatest female leaders at the Swan Theatre!

Kate Rusby: Special 25 Year Anniversary Concert at Assembly Hall Theatre.

Kate Rusby: Special 25 Year Anniversary Concert at Assembly Hall Theatre.

See UK folk darling Kate Rusby perform as she celebrates her 25 Year Anniversary.

RWA Annual Open Exhibition Returns for 2017

RWA Annual Open Exhibition Returns for 2017

The Royal West of England Academy presents its Annual Open Exhibition, a celebration of visual art.

Edinburgh on a Budget

Edinburgh on a Budget

Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city, is one of the UK’s most beautiful and fascinating destinations to visit. A mixture of medieval charm, Georgian elegance, and modern-day chic,…

Win a two night stay, ferry travel and festival tickets for two!

Isle of Wight Literary Festival - Win a two night stay, ferry travel and festival tickets for two!

Win a fabulous 2 night stay for two in West Cowes on the beautiful Isle of Wight. Prize includes choice of ferry travel plus tickets...

What’s on this August Bank Holiday Weekend?

What’s on this August Bank Holiday Weekend?

Stuck for ideas on what to do this Bank Holiday Weekend? If Notting Hill Carnival doesn’t take your fancy, we’ve rounded up some of the best…

Sweet, it’s National Cupcake Week!

Sweet, it’s National Cupcake Week!

While cupcakes were once all the rage (remember when they were the wedding dessert of choice?), in the past few years they have taken somewhat…

The Bristol Poetry Festival 2017

The Bristol Poetry Festival 2017

The annual Bristol Poetry Festival returns for 2017 from Friday 6 – Thursday 19 October.

An Interview with Shoreham Wordfest

An Interview with Shoreham Wordfest

Shoreham-by-Sea has become one of the most desirable coastal destinations on the south coast, with a tight-knight community and thriving local arts scene. Among the…

Most popular

‘Old Before I Die’: An Interview with Jon Richardson

‘Old Before I Die’: An Interview with Jon Richardson

Jon Richardson’s new show offers various echoes of the past, as Culture Calling discovers.
Sweet, it’s National Cupcake Week!

Sweet, it’s National Cupcake Week!

Sugar, spice and all things nice. Celebrate national cupcake week with our guide to some of the country’s best.
VIDEO: Discover Oxford Castle Unlocked

VIDEO: Discover Oxford Castle Unlocked

Discover the beautiful ruins of Oxford Castle, located in the heart of the historic city.
Win a Scuba Diving Session for Two!

Virgin Experience Days - Win a Scuba Diving Session for Two!

Looking for a new hobby? Tired of life on land? You’re in luck! We have a scuba diving session for two to giveaway! 
‘We’ve really found our identity’: An Interview with the Eastleigh Film Festival

‘We’ve really found our identity’: An Interview with the Eastleigh Film Festival

Eastleigh Film Festival returns for a fourth year to Eastleigh town centre, and brings with it a host of classic film screenings in locations across the town.
Top 5 Brewery Tours in Surrey

Top 5 Brewery Tours in Surrey

Whether you’re a beer expert looking for a tasting challenge or a novice looking to find out more about craft beer culture, we’ve got the essential run down of the best brewery tours and tastings in Surrey.
Top 5 Cosy Cabin Retreats in the UK

Top 5 Cosy Cabin Retreats in the UK

Snuggle up and escape the daily grind with our pick of the cosiest and quirkiest cabins in the UK.
It’s Roald Dahl Day: Here’s Where to Relive the Magic!

It’s Roald Dahl Day: Here’s Where to Relive the Magic!

Celebrate one of the UK’s most beloved and talented authors this September 13 – Roald Dahl Day!
Comedy, Music and Mayhem: An Interview with Alex Horne

Comedy, Music and Mayhem: An Interview with Alex Horne

A brilliant comedian, published author, and creator and co-host of hit television show 'Taskmaster', Alex Horne is back with a countrywide tour of his live jazz comedy showcase – The Horne Section.
Classic Dishes to Try in Britain

Classic Dishes to Try in Britain

There is more to the UK than beans on toast. From fish and chips to a Sunday roast, we've rounded up the classic dishes you must try.

Your inbox deserves a little culture!