Introducing the Big City Read Programme

In July 1917, Siegfried Sassoon wrote an open letter to the Times protesting about the conduct of the war. What happened next is the subject of Pat Barker’s book Regeneration which will be the Big City Read for this year.

We will be giving away 5,000 free copies of Regeneration over October and November and asking readers to immerse themselves in the world of 100 years ago.

We will be exploring many themes of the novel through a diverse programme of events and activities across the city, delivered in our libraries and by our partner organisations.

Our fantastic programme of events is available to download now and offers something for everyone, many of them free to book including:-

  • A free launch event with Pat Barker introducing Regeneration on 5 October at York Explore
  • Talks which put the novel into its historical, political, literary and therapeutic context. One of the highlights is David Stevenson from the LSE, author of 1914-1918: The History of the First World War.
  • Author events, with debut author David Sanger, a return visit from our 2010 Big City Read author, Joanne Harris, and a first visit from Jo Baker, author of Longbourn and A Country Road, A Tree. We are hosting an exclusive literary supper with the wonderful Persephone Books at Rowntree Park Reading Cafe.
  • Poetry events including readings, workshops, performances and the opportunity to share poems.
  • Events focussing on mental health, with an event featuring the Curator of the War Poets Collection, based at Craiglockhart, the key location of the book. Other events will look at the history of mental health diagnoses and treatment, as described in Regeneration and the opportunity for people to discuss their own mental health in confidence with experience practitioners from the Tuke Centre and learn about the practice of mindfulness.
  • A host of events to get the people of York involved with the world as it was in 1916 including community singing, creative writing workshops, vintage dance workshops, musical performances, hands on archives sessions, pop up reading groups, film screenings, community craft activities and historical walks,
  • Many opportunities for families and children to get involved, with family days at York And Acomb Explore, craft and story sessions for both under 5s and older children at all of our libraries and some special events where children can experience the life of a soldier in the First World War and trench warfare.

Pat Barker said “A century ago in 1916 when conscription was first introduced York was dealing with the difficult question of what to do with conscientious objectors, a particularly sensitive issue in York with its strong Quaker traditions. In fact about half of young male Quakers decided to enlist. Each of those men – and those who took the opposite decision – will have struggled with some of the issues that preoccupy the characters in Regeneration. I like to think of their descendants picking up Regeneration and perhaps coming away with a deeper sympathy and respect for those young men and the challenges they faced.”

Fiona Williams, our Chief Executive, said, “We are thrilled to be working with Pat Barker and Penguin for this year’s Big City Read. Regeneration is a very powerful story, beautifully written. It shows a different side of the war to many other books and is very relevant to York. We are delighted that so many organisations have chosen to partner with us to deliver this wonderfully inclusive programme.”

Copies of the programme will be available at all York Libraries and other outlets in York from 5 September.  You can download the PDF brochure now, or browse the events in our What’s On calendar.

Free copies of Regeneration can be collected from any of our libraries from 6 October.

Events can be booked from now either in person at any library, or by phone on (01904) 552828 or (01904) 552651.  We advise booking in advance for all of our events, if applicable, to make sure of a place.


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