20th Sep, 2018

Pupils take Bring George Eliot Home campaign to PM and other leaders

Les Reid 15th Feb, 2018 Updated: 15th Feb, 2018

PUPILS at a school class named after Coventry and Warwickshire’s globally celebrated great novelist have written to the Prime Minister, council leader and others in support of our Bring George Eliot Home campaign.

The children of ‘Eliot Class’ at Park Hill junior school, Kenilworth, have individually penned personal pleas to the powers-that-be.

They are calling for more to be done with the writer’s former home in Foleshill, Coventry – the Grade II*-listed 19th century mansion Bird Grove.

They were inspired after their teacher Dan McGunigal saw TV coverage of the Coventry Observer’s campaign, which has been running since last October in partnership with the George Eliot Fellowship.

Letters are being posted to prime minister Theresa May, culture secretary Matthew Hancock, Coventry council leader George Duggins and cabinet member Linda Bigham, and representatives from the Coventry City of Culture Trust.

Aleksa Whiting, aged 10, told us during our visit: “We’ve been writing to Theresa May saying that, even though she has lots to attend to such as the NHS, preserving English heritage is paramount. Maybe we could have a centre that teaches English and people can study George Eliot.

“We’d ask Theresa May to transfer some of the rooms back to as they were when George Eliot lived there. It will help to preserve it, and maybe open up some of the rooms.”

Hannah Shillington, aged 10, said: “It would be good to help George Eliot be as recognised as Shakespeare.”

Abbie Hawkes said: “It’s really important that everyone knows about George Eliot. She’s written amazing books. If they put up information plaques at her home, schools could learn more about her.”

Joe Haggarty, aged nine, said: “George Eliot’s home is her home. There’s no even a plaque there.”

Eleanor Smith, aged 10, said: “It helps that Shakespeare has got a birthplace where people can go. But who would say Shakespeare is better than George Eliot?”

Mr McGunigal, year 5 Eliot class teacher, said: “When I highlighted the campaign to Eliot class they had such strong opinions that they immediately asked to write to the Prime Minister to see George Eliot recognised more.

“We really need to listen to their opinions in the hope that something can be done to recognise Bird Grove as a place of literary interest. The children are even saying that they wish to visit the PM to share their strong views.

“I am so proud of the children’s interest in literature and politics and their plight in trying to make a difference.

“We are expecting a response from the PM by at least Middlemarch!!”

One of the Year 5 classes has been named Eliot Class for years. Others are named after Shakespeare, Lady Godiva and other local historic figures.

George Eliot, born Mary Ann Evans in Nuneaton, lived in Bird Grove in her twenties in the 1840s after being schooled in Coventry, her formative years which went on to feature in her works including the enduring classic Middlemarch.

Our campaign is calling for a blue plaque; access to tourists and visitors interested in George Eliot (alongside other activities); and examination of restoration funding which might also work for the building’s private owners; and for Coventry to do more generally to celebrate the writer’s important connections with the city in partnership with Nuneaton – with her bicentenary next year and UK City of Culture in 2021.

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