Almost three hundred years to the day after it was first published on 25th April 1719, Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe will feature as the chosen text for A Town Explores A Book, the St Leonards based festival gearing up for its third year next spring.

Running from Saturday 4th to Monday 22nd April 2019 (get the dates in your diary now!), the innovative festival aims to ‘unite a whole community in the exploration of a piece of writing’. It embraces outdoor art, themed shop window displays, café-based creative writing activities, discussion groups, theatrical performances and more – all inspired by the festival book.

Robinson Crusoe is often cited as the first English novel. It’s a daring adventure but also a contemplation of philosophical issues such as the nature of civilisation, power and ambition, and humankind’s relationship to the environment.

But although it has been translated into over a hundred languages and inspired countless television series and films, it may be the finest example of ‘the book you think you know but have never actually read’ – yet!

As might be expected with a book published fourteen years before the abolition of slavery, there are some difficult passages, both in terms of language and social attitudes. But the festival team are eager to confront these tricky issues head on, rather than gloss over the more challenging aspects of the book.

So what can we look forward to next Easter? Southeastern Rail is one of the festival’s core partners, so from the moment visitors arrive at St Leonards Warrior Square Station, there will be humorous and thought-provoking visual responses to the text on display.

Kings Road has emerged as a key hub in the festival. Local businesses, such as Paisley and Friends, offer unique, vivid and personal window display responses to the writing, and Remy’s Café and Kulinarya is one of many eateries offering creative writing activities.

Peter Quinnell, Susan Miller and Emma Harding are just a few of the artists mounting visual displays and installations in outdoor areas such as Warrior Square Gardens, Gensing Gardens and St Leonard Gardens. These were a great hit last year, much loved by wellie-clad families bracing the squally spring weather. Care was taken to place words at the eye level of young children, who were able to touch and follow the letters with their fingers.

And up at the intimate theatre venue in Charles Road, the founders of the festival, ExploreTheArch theatre company, are mounting a production running over the entirety of the festival in tandem with the Zoom Arts gallery exhibition near the station.

Lots planned already, as you can see, but the festival would be nothing without you! Whether your interests are yarn bombing, dog walking or cycling in fancy dress, get involved. It’s up to you whether you choose to read a paragraph, a page, or indeed the whole of Defoe’s salty dog tome. The festival is yours and this island adventure story belongs to you.

• #ATownExploresABook19 4th-22nd April 2019

To apply to get involved, please email [email protected]

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