The University of Warwick has awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters to acclaimed Cheshire author Alan Garner. He received his honorary degree of Doctor of Letters at a degree ceremony on Thursday, 20 January 2011. The degree has formed part of a year of celebrations for Alan Garner as October 2010 marked the 50th anniversary of his first published novel The Weirdstone of Brisingamen. The book has never been out of print and has been enjoyed by several generations of children.
One of his many books is the novel Red Shift (1973) which plays on the astronomical term Red Shift as well as being a play on words that can describe a form a of clothing – a red shift or red petticoat. During his acceptance speech he particularly thanked the University for providing him with the new Red Doctoral robes which he called “His very own Red Shift”. Just before receiving his degree he also gave a podcast interview on his work.
Alan Garner is a prize winning author whose novels are not only firmly established as classics of English literature but are also loved and treasured by both children and adults.
His family roots are in Cheshire where he was born, and the area around Alderley Edge where he lives now, and that area has greatly influenced his writing. Many of his works, including The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath, and more recently Thursbitch draw on the legends and geography of Alderley Edge.
His inspiration has come from Alderley Edge’s history, mythology and archaeology and from his own local explorations. He is particularly interested in the language of the area (which he describes as ‘North-West Mercian Middle English’) and has tried to reproduce its cadences in modern English.
His first three books - The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, The Moon of Gomrath and Elidor – were fantasy, and marketed for children. However he has also written acclaimed novels that are aimed at adults such as Thursbitch (2003).
His fourth book, The Owl Service (1968), was also aimed at children. It won both the Guardian Award and the Carnegie Medal and established him as one of the UK’s leading writers.
The Owl Service was also made into an 8 episode TV series. It was produced in 1969 and televised in the winter of 1969-1970 and Alan Garner himself wrote the scripts. It was the first fully-scripted colour production by Granada Television and was filmed almost entirely on location in Wales. It remains one of the most haunting children’s TV series ever made. An audio dramatisation of The Owl Service was also produced and transmitted by BBC Radio 4 in 2000. Many of his other works have been adapted for television and in 1981 he himself made a film, Image and Landscape, which won first prize at the Chicago International Film Festival.
His other novels include Strandloper (1996) and Thursbitch (2003); he has also written collections of short stories – The Stone Book received the Phoenix Award from the Children’s Literature Association (USA) in 1996 – and The Voice That Thunders, a collection of essays and lectures published in 1997. In 2001, Alan Garner was awarded the OBE for services to children’s literature.
More useful links to interviews with Alan Garner etc:
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University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 8UW, United Kingdom
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PR 136a 21st January 2011
Alan Garner OBE
An interview with Alan Garner OBE about his writing career on the occasion of receiving his Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters.