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  • Image: Maximilian de Wied, a sketch of indigenous Botocudos bathing in the Rio Grande, 1816. 

WORD NIGHTS | EXPLORATION AND THE WORD

Historian Huw Lewis-Jones, explorer Kari Herbert and award-winning author Philip Marsden discuss the relationship between exploration and the written word.

Exploration can involve exotic places, heroism, and death-defying odds. It can be motivated by a desire for discovery and adventure, but perhaps often stems from something more primal. Michael Collins, Command Module Pilot on the Apollo 11 mission to the moon stated: ‘It’s human nature to stretch, to go, to see, to understand. Exploration is not a choice, it’s an imperative’.

Huw Lewis-Jones is a historian, editor, broadcaster and formerly a Curator of Art at the Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge. His partner, Kari Herbert, is the daughter of polar explorer Sir Wally Herbert, and spent the first few years of her life living on a remote island in the arctic with the Polar Inuit of Northwest Greenland. She has continued to travel extensively ever since.

Huw Lewis-Jones and Kari Herbert co-authored the book Explorers’ Sketchbooks, released in September this year. This book brings to life the accounts of an array of intrepid pioneers, map-makers, botanists and artists, ecologists and anthropologists, eccentrics and visionaries. Some are acclaimed figures, such as Captain Scott, Charles Darwin, Thor Heyerdahl and Chris Bonington; others deserve to be better known, like Adela Breton, who braved the jungles of Mexico to make an unparalleled record of Maya monuments, and Alexandrine Tinne, who died in her attempt to be the first woman to cross the Sahara. They will talk through some of the images and accounts they have uncovered while writing the book, and discuss the relationship between exploration and the written word.

Philip Marsden is the author of a number of works of travel, fiction and non-fiction, including The Bronski House, The Spirit-Wrestlers and The Levelling Sea. His most recent book, Rising Ground tells the story of a walk through Cornwall from Bodmin Moor to Land’s End in the far South West, exploring the idea of place and our relationship to landscape. Last summer Philip sailed single-handed up the West Coast of Ireland. Few of the world’s coastlines offer such a rich tradition of folk beliefs, phantom islands, shape-shifting and poetic lore. He will be carrying on to Scotland’s Western Isles this summer and his account will be published by Granta in 2018. He will read from his work in progress, and talk about some of his encounters along the way.

The public programme at CAST is supported by Arts Council England, as part of the Groundwork programme 2016-18, which has been awarded Ambition for Excellence funding. Ambition for Excellence is a new programme aimed at stimulating and supporting ambition, talent and excellence across the arts sector in England. The fund aims to have significant impact on the growth of an ambitious international-facing arts infrastructure, especially outside London.

‘Word Nights’ is the first in a series of occasional literary evenings programmed by Colin Midson.

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