Writ in water: radio play and poetry event to mark bicentenary of John Keats' death in Rome

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The Keats-Shelley Memorial Association is marking the start of two years of events celebrating the lives and works of poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley with a commissioned play, Writ in Water, to be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 23 February, the bicentenary of Keats's death.

On the eve of John Keats’s 200th birthday, 30 October 1995, BBC Radio 4's Monday Play was Angus Graham-Campbell’s Rebel Angel, which explored Keats’s transformation from trainee surgeon to poet. Now, 25 years later, the actual span of Keats’s life, Graham-Campbell’s new play tells the story of the John Keats's final weeks of life, and death in Rome on 23 February 1821. The play records the poet’s parting from his fiancée Fanny Brawne in Hampstead, his adventurous trip by sea to Italy, his quarantine on arrival in Naples, and his final weeks in the Piazza di Spagna in Rome, as he died believing that he had failed in all he set out to do.

The Keats-Shelley Memorial Association is also celebrating the bicentenary with a virtual event in partnership with the University of Chichester and South Downs poetry festival that will include poets Naomi Foyle, Jeremy Page, Stephanie Norgate, James Simpson, Camilla Lambert and Barry Smith,  and music by Little Machine, Chris Hardy and classical guitarist Amanda Cook. The event is free on YouTube

The Keats-Shelley House in Rome, pictured, opened as a museum in 1909 and, more than a century later, attracts some 25,000 visitors a year. The museum, dedicated to the British Romantic Poets, is located at the right foot of the Spanish Steps. It was the final dwelling place of John Keats, who died there in 1821 from tuberculosis, aged 25.

Dr Giuseppe Albano, curator of the Keats-Shelley House, said: “The Keats-Shelley House reopened on 1 February following a period of closure of almost three months. It means so much to us to be able to reopen the museum in the month of the bicentenary of Keats’s death in Rome. Those who are unable to travel to Rome will still be able to visit the house via the panoramic tour to be launched on the date of the bicentenary, and we’re also premiering two exclusive immersive video experiences this month, both of them collaborations with Bob Geldof, a long-time friend to the museum and Keats-Shelley200 Ambassador.”

The online tour is available for groups of up to 30 people at a time and can be booked through the museum’s website. The tour will be available from 23 February and can be pre-booked.

 

 

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