John Bunyan’s Round Table - is a new multi-agency group, formed to encourage international fans to visit Bedford and also to put his book back in local schools.
The photo, above, shows the “Round Table” group on the staircase (from original Palace Beautiful - Houghton House) at The Bedford Swan Hotel.
The man whose work has been shared more widely than Shakespeare is being brought back to life in his home town (and beyond). John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress has been more influential than any book in the English language, other than the Bible. Since being published in the 17th Century it has never been out of print and has been translated and cherished across the world. Today there is even The Pilgrim’s Progress “theme park" in South Korea, while visitors from the US and the Continent still make “pilgrimages” to Bedford and his home village of Elstow.
Bringing the book back to the classroom is Ruth Broomhall, a teacher and author who co-wrote* the devotional “To be a Pilgrim” (CWR, 2016) and has created a tool box of materials to enable teachers to bring the story to life for primary school children. The material is available via her website, named after a significant building in the story;
Ruth is now working on a new book about the little-known sequel to The Pilgrim’s Progress based on the pilgrim Christian’s wife Christiana and family. The children’s book will be illustrated by Alasdair Bright and will include recognisable Bedfordshire landmarks and will recreate some of the monsters and challenges the family faced. She is working with children at Livingstone Primary School to help bring the story to life.
“Bunyan has a worldwide fan base - his book was a revelation and created a revolution among Christians who took the message around the world. As it was an allegory it made the Christian story accessible to people in a way the traditional church’s teachings in Latin could not. Ruth describes it as ‘rather like Walt Disney meets God’.
“It is hard now to understand the huge impact it had in terms of communicating Bunyan’s beliefs - something like Sky TV combined with Harry Potter.”
The popularity of Bunyan today cannot be underestimated. In South Korea - where individual church membership tops 30,000 in some cities - a “theme park” was officially opened in late 2016 by Ruth’s co-author* Dr Peter Morden, an acknowledged expert in the field. See story on South Korea under News on palacebeautiful.co.uk
A modern Mash-up can be found on You Tube (a rock version of To Be a Pilgrim - the famous hymn celebrating the Bunyan book)
Such is the new impetus around John Bunyan, that Ruth and associates are staging a summit among county leaders to find a way to capture international tourist interest in Bunyan. The Pilgrim’s Progress features various locations in Bedfordshire, all real-life inspiration for Bunyan’s allegory, which make up a trail followed by visitors from far and wide. The event was sponsored by The Bedford Swan Hotel and businesses from the BedfordBID which promotes visitors via www.lovebedford.co.uk