Personal Wonderlands event a hit for Readers & Writers

Readers & Writers’ first ever fundraising event, Personal Wonderlands, held on the evening of 25th November 2003, was a resounding success artistically and financially.


We invited eminent writers to share with our audience the books that had inspired them when they were young.  PEN members Harold Pinter (Ulysses), Tom Stoppard (England, Their England), Doris Lessing (The Jungle Book) and Antonia Fraser (Our Island Story: A History of England for Boys and Girls) joined a wonderful line-up of children’s writers – Jacqueline Wilson (Jane Eyre), the Children’s Laureate Michael Morpurgo (The Elephant’s Child) and Louisa Young aka Zizou Corder (Voyage of the Dawn Treader) – in revealing what had particularly triggered their childhood imaginations or influenced their early writing.


Alexei Sayle (Puckoon) and PEN members Jung Chang (The Little Match Girl) and Bonnie Greer (Another Country) also accepted our invitations to speak, while Sue MacGregor (Swallows & Amazons) and Rachel Billington, our chair on the Readers & Writers programme, compèred the evening.  Everyone agreed it was a unique literary event and also a very special fundraiser because its theme championed its cause so well.


English PEN’s then president, Victoria Glendinning, commented: “These eminent authors read aloud from the books that had turned them on when they were five, or eight, or thirteen and because these books had meant so much to them, these distinguished writers seemed, somehow, five, or eight, or thirteen, again while they were reading. Looking at the rapt faces in the audience, I saw that they were, too.  There was a two-way current.”


Bloomberg donated the evening’s refreshments and its City venue while donors including artist Paula Rego, Raymond Briggs, the Blairs and our speakers – with special guest auctioneers Tony Bradman and Neil Arksey – contributed to the success of the evening’s auction.  This generosity and the support of many PEN members and friends enabled us to raise just over our target of £10,000 for the programme.


Personal Wonderlands also generated publicity for Readers & Writers. Antonia Fraser spoke about the evening on Radio 4’s Start the Week while Rachel Billington, wrote a wonderful piece about childhood reading habits for The GuardianVictoria Glendinning, wrote inspiringly about the programme’s aims in The Times and did an admirable sales pitch for Personal Wonderlands on Radio 4’s Today programme. This press instigated several spontaneous donations.

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