Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Party for Paine!

by Kathryn Hadley

Events are planned across the country this summer to mark the bicentenary of Thomas Paine’s death on June 8th, 1809.

A seven-month festival of events will notably run in Thetford in Norfolk, Thomas Paine’s birthplace, throughout the month of June until November 7th. The festival begins with a special celebratory Re-enactment and Heritage weekend this weekend. Events will include exhibitions, talks, plays, concerts and street entertainment. It will end with a Bicentenary dinner on Monday evening.

Here is selection of some of the displays, exhibitions and talks organised over the weekend.
- Thetford’s Thomas Paine
Ancient House Museum, White Hart Street
A new exhibition featuring the Dabos portrait of Paine on loan from the National Portrait Gallery.
- The Thomas Paine collection: an archive display
Thetford Library
A display of items from the library’s Thomas Paine Collection and the Norfolk Records Office.
- Paine the Engineer
Charles Burrell Museum, Minstergate
A display celebrating Paine as a bridge-builder.
- Tom Paine’s Plain Words
St Peter’s Church, White Hart Street
In this informal lecture Andrew Barlow will discuss the success of Paine’s writing in terms of his style and his ability to reach out to a wide audience.
- Made in England: Paine’s Radicalism
Tanner House, Tanner Street
Ted Vallance will consider Paine’s experiences in England, arguing that they were fundamental to the development of his radical political philosophy.

The festival will continue until November with a series of interesting talks and lectures.
- Trevor Griffiths: These are the times
Saturday June 13th, 7.30pm
United Reformed Church, Mere Street, Diss
Trevor Griffiths, whose play A New World: A Life of Thomas Paine, a musical dramatisation of Paine’s life and times, premieres at the Globe Theatre this autumn, will read and discuss extracts from his play.
- Autumn Lecture Series – Royalty and Revolution: The World of Thomas Paine
September 18th, 8pm
Williamson Hall, Thetford Grammar School, Bridge Street
In the first of the Autumn lecture series, Brian Way will provide an introduction to the ‘Age of Enlightenment’, which saw the birth of the modern world and the growth of industry, science, capitalism and socialism. The series will continue until November 7th, with a final lecture by John Keane who will discuss Paine’s pioneering visions of a new politics for the elderly.

Lewes in East Sussex, where Paine lived for many years, will also be holding a festival from July 4th to July 14th.
- Setting the Scene
July 4th – July 19th
Lewes Town Hall
An exhibition designed to provide a deeper understanding of Thomas Paine and his influence in the first rumblings of revolt in America and the United Kingdom.
- Taking Liberties
July 4th – July 14th
Lewes Town Hall
A display on loan from the British Library’s ‘Taking Liberties’ exhibition, which was on show until the beginning of March, showing the struggle for the hard won rights and freedoms that underpin the modern assumption of British liberty.
- The Tom Paine Forum
July 4th, 10am
The festival in Lewes will formally open with this open discussion featuring leading scholars of 18th-century political thought who will each discuss one aspect of Paine’s life and work. Speakers include Professor Gareth Stedman-Jones (University of Cambridge), Professor Jon Mee (Warwick), Dr Mark Philp (Oxford), Professor John Barrell (York) and Professor Iain Hampsher-Monk (Exeter).
- Thomas Paine, the Enlightenment and Dark Ages
July 10th, 6pm

The Sheriffs Room White Hart
As part of the White Hart Debate series which run form July 7th until July 11th, Sir Harry Kroto will share his thought on atheism, deism and freethinking questioning how close Paine got to absolute enlightenment.
- Presentation and discussion of new Thomas Paine research
July 10th, 7.30pm
Anne of Cleves, Southover, Lewes
Paul Myles, Colin Brent and Seth Gopin will present their latest research on Paine’s pamphlet The Case of the Officers of Excise, written and published in Lewes in 1773.
- Paine’s Progress – The Life and Times of Thomas Paine Esq
July 12th – July 14th
The Grand Marquee, Southover Grange Gardens, Lewes
Set in New York State in the summer of 1808, the plays charts Paine's reflections upon the triumphs and tragedies, and the loves and losses of his life.
- In Lambeth
August 1st – August 8th
Lewes Theatre Club, Lancaster Street, Lewes
Set in Britain in 1789, on the eve of the storming of the Bastille, the play tells the story of the meeting and ensuing debates about revolutionary change between Thomas Paine and William Blake. Jack Shepherd’s play was first performed at the Dulwich Tavern in July 1989. Twenty years later, the playwright will star in the current production, which will tour the UK and Eire from mid-January until mid-April 2010.

For further information on the festival of events in Thetford, visit
For further information on events and exhibitions in Lewes, visit

For further information on Thomas Paine and his enduring impact, read our latest free feature article by David Nash The Gain from Thomas Paine

For an insight into how Paine forms a link between the two great revolutions of the 18th century, read our article Tom Paine in France For further information about the impact of Paine’s American pamphlets published between December 1776 and December 1783 under the general title of The American Crisis, read our article Paine's American Pamphlets

1 comment:

Abi said...

Fantastic to see so many events in Britain to mark the bicentenary of Tom Paine's death. Apart from HISTORY TODAY, his anniversary has been largely ignored by the national media. Information about events in the United States can be found on the Thomas Paine Friends website:

Two great books about Tom Paine are THESE ARE THE TIME: A LIFE OF THOMAS PAINE by Trevor Griffiths, a brilliant screenplay for a film which is as yet unmade, and THOMAS PAINE: IN SEARCH OF THE COMMON GOOD, edited by Joyce Chumbley & Leo Zonneveld, available from Spokesman Books (see: I have found their service top notch.

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