CS Lewis was born in Ballyhackamore, east Belfast. This statue in the city celebrates its most famous novelist. Photo courtesy Belfast City Council
Author CS Lewis may have ended up writing the evergreen Narnia series of books at Oxford, he was born and bred in Belfast, and the city is set to celebrate its most famous novelist with a 10-day festival.
The festival is timed to capitalise on the release of the big-budget film version of Lewis’s best-know story - The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – which looks set to be a major box office hit.
Events run from December 2-11 2005 and feature storytelling, literary workshops, tours, talks, a lantern parade and more, forming part of the city’s Celebrate Belfast programme.
“Celebrate Belfast is 15 months of celebrations in the city and the aim of it is to showcase what Belfast has to offer,” explained Sarah Quinlan from the Celebrate Belfast Team.
“Within that we are celebrating some of our prominent citizens of which CS Lewis was one.”
A lantern-parade featuring characters froms the books will be one of the festival's highlights. Photo courtesy Belfast City Council
Because of the film’s release “it seemed like the perfect time to have a festival”, she added, and events will highlight the author’s connection with the city.
Charles Staples, or 'Jack', Lewis was born in Ballyhackamore, east Belfast, in 1898 and spent his formative years in the city. Living on the city’s Circular Road he attended nearby Campbell College, but was sent to boarding school in England after the death of his mother.
After serving in the First World War, where he was injured, he settled at Oxford University where he was to tutor medieval and renaissance English literature.
Here he wrote the six-book Chronicles of Narnia, which have gone on to sell some 65 million copies worldwide. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is the second in the series and traces the fortunes of a group of Second World War evacuees who discover a fantastical world through a wardrobe in their new home.
Linen Hall Library, the city's oldest, will display the complete archive of CS Lewis's work. Courtesy the Linen Hall Library
Lewis also became close friends with JRR Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings, although Tolkien is said to have never liked the Narnia books.
Highlights of the festival include a charity premiere of the film in aid of Queen’s University, Belfast, where Lewis’s mother was a distinguished academic, and a Narnia-themed lantern parade on December 10 through the streets of Lewis’s native east Belfast, with puppets, drummers and dancers.
The Linen Hall Library will also be displaying the complete archived collection of Lewis’s works and holding a series of school workshops, while the Queen’s Film Theatre will host a literary conference and creative writing workshops.
A special walking trail will highlight the author’s Belfast connections, with guided bus tours during the festival itself, and The Seamus Heaney Centre of Poetry is organising a CS Lewis Symposium at Queen’s University.
Full details of the CS Lewis festival and the other Celebrate Belfast events can be found on its website. Celebrate Belfast coincides with the centenary of Belfast City Hall on August 1 2006.