Marion Turner’s research focuses on Geoffrey Chaucer: her latest book is a biography of the poet – Chaucer: A European Life (Princeton, 2019). Chaucer was a ground-breaking poet, but today his work is mainly read in universities and as an A level set text. This partnership will bring his work to more diverse audiences. Marion has long been committed to outreach - recently, she have given talks at open days, schools, the Ashmolean and the Weston Library. In 2019 Dr Turner has given talks at the Oxford Literary Festival, the Hay on Wye Literary Festival, on Radio 4’s 'Start the Week' and on Radio 5 Live’s 'Up All Night', for example.
Flash of Splendour is a non-profit educational arts organisation that specialises in collaborating with academics to bring high-prestige literature to audiences that have historically been excluded from this kind of cultural engagement. As well as putting on major exhibitions, and producing children’s books, Flash of Splendour also regularly works with local schools, and especially with children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
Flash of Splendour and Marion Turner will use the Knowledge Exchange Fellowship for two purposes. First, they will write bids for funding from organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, to fund a Chaucer Day, featuring newly-commissioned poems, music, and visual art. There would be a competition to select some of the art (Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is a poetry competition!) and the work of young people with SEND would feature. A Chaucer Day could become a fixture (like Alice Day). They are particularly interested in encouraging diverse art: many recent responses to Chaucer have come from multicultural communities.
Secondly, they will collaborate to put together pilot Chaucer workshops, that Flash of Splendour will then trial in the local schools with which they work closely.
A KE Fellowship will be a crucial springboard for a long-term collaboration which will make positive interventions in our local cultural life, enabling many more constituencies to access Chaucer's poetry.