For the first time since he died in January 1928, Thomas Hardy’s birthday will be celebrated in a spectacular and vibrant style in the county town of ‘Casterbridge’. Not everyone gets this on their 139th birthday!

The full length of High East Street and High West Street will be closed to traffic from 9am to 6pm on Sunday 2 June and the fair will take place from 11am to 4pm.

hardy-players-madding-crowd-128With cross-community support the Thomas Hardy Victorian Fair (THVF) promises to be a lot of fun for old and young alike, whether Hardy enthusiasts or not.

Let’s go to town wearing Victorian costumes (there are prizes for the best of these), stroll up and down one of the finest High Streets in the UK, and learn more about the street and its fictional and non-fictional links to our most famous son on a free tour.

You can listen to music from brass bands, ceilidh fiddlers and folk musicians, watch the Nothe Fort Artillery prepare and fire their cannon, accompany the town councillors, the mace bearers and the beadle in their gowns and historic headgear as they walk up the street to Thomas Hardy’s statue.

There, together with representatives from the Hardy Society, they will lay a wreath at the foot of his statue, before returning to lay another wreath at the feet of his mentor and friend William Barnes.

There will be the chance to enjoy rides in a pony and trap, see a traction engine in steam, watch craftspeople at work, enjoy local food, drink and sideshows, and visit the inflatable museum. You will be able to watch performances by the New Hardy Players, immerse yourself in fairy tales in the Shire Hall, reflect on Hardy’s role during the First World War at the Keep Military Museum, see a flock of Dorset Down sheep penned in the High Street, dance round the Maypole or join in a folk dance in the street, confident you’ll not be flattened by traffic!

For Hardy enthusiasts there are further events over the whole weekend, including walks with readings on both Saturday and Sunday, the Birthday Lecture on Saturday afternoon, with Dr Faysal Mikdadi’s talk on Hardy in Translation. On Saturday evening there will be entertainment with local ceilidh band, Tatterdemalion, and a 10am service on Sunday at St. Michael’s Church, Stinsford followed by wreath-laying at Hardy’s grave. For more information visit hardysociety.org. We would like to thank local businesses and organisations for supporting the Thomas Hardy Victorian Fair, including our main sponsors Kingston Maurward and Goulds of Dorchester.

For more information on the fair contact Alistair Chisholm at alistair@chiz.org.uk.

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