UCLan will host a children’s book festival this week that seeks to tackle prejudice and connect continents and UK communities.Advertisement
On Friday 8 July at 3pm, UCLan will host the first ‘Heartstone Odyssey Book Festival’, funded by Preston City Council and other Lancashire-based organisations and individuals.
The organisers will launch the event at UCLan’s Greenbank Building, Victoria Street, Preston, PR1 2HE, bringing together presenters for an event reaching ‘across continents and time’ and dealing with prejudice and hate to connect the USA, UK and India.
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Sir Mark Hendrick MP said: “I am delighted to lend my support to the Heartstone Odyssey Book Festival from 8 to 10 July this year.
“Sharing stories and the art of storytelling remains a part of discovering our past, exploring our present and aspiring to the future.
“It is important for children of all backgrounds to be able to explore their own and other cultures, and often this is done creatively through fantastical stories, myths and legends.
“This project will explore identity and culture and provide positive role models to diverse children’s communities in Preston and beyond.”
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Hendrick said racism and discrimination are learnt behaviours, and to counter them, they need to ensure that children from a young age learn to value others and celebrate differences, whether in terms of colour, faith, beliefs or culture.
The MP hopes that children and adults alike will enjoy hearing from the ‘stellar line-up of storytellers’ during the book festival.
The patron, the HM Lord-Lieutenant of Lancashire, Lord Shuttleworth KG KCVO KStJ, the Queen’s representative in the County and Sitakumari, principal dancer/storyteller for Heartstone, will open the event.
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Ms Ranvir Singh, Good Morning Presenter, will be present as a special guest, with Sir Derek Jacobi joining online from London.
The Mayor of Preston, Cllr Neil Darby and Cllr Nweeda Khan, cabinet member for Preston City Council, will be amongst the speakers for the opening event.
Joining online from Edinburgh will be Shri Bijay Selvaraj, Consul General of India, to mark the cultural role of India in Book 2 of ‘The Heartstone Odyssey’.
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A children’s art competition has also been launched in connection with this event to involve children across the northwest region.
Barrie Osborne, the Oscar-winning producer of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, will also be joining online from Los Angeles and presenting his plans to help take the books to large and small screens.
Barrie Osborne said: “A good film entertains us, a great one entertains and enlightens us, an exceptional one entertains, enlightens and inspires.
“The ‘Heartstone Odyssey’ incorporates all the material and themes required to create an exceptional film.
“The dedicated team and friends from outside supporting them will enable us to bring this exceptional trilogy to the screen.”
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‘The Heartstone Odyssey’ by Arvan Kumar is a trilogy of novels for all ages, a story of magic, mystery and suspense that deals with intolerance and the theme of how everyone wants to be treated and accepted.
It is also about overcoming obstacles to achieve your goal and fulfil your dreams.
The three-day online festival will reach out across the UK and beyond with global contributors, including those from the world of film and theatre, such as Sir Derek Jacobi.
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Rosa Parks Museum Director Donna Beisel said: “Rosa Parks herself said, ‘I see the energy of young people as a real force for positive change’.
“The Rosa Parks Museum is excited and honoured to be a part of the inaugural Heartstone Odyssey Book Festival in the hope of inspiring today’s children and future generations to follow in the footsteps of Mrs Parks, Chandra from the Heartstone Odyssey, and so many others to be agents of change in their own communities.”
The festival will include Mario Kkounnous, UCLan’s lead digital animator, his prizewinning students, who produced artworks to connect with the book and the Harris curator, James Arnold, who connected objects with the book’s characters when they arrived in Lancashire in the early 1800s.
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The local work will be presented alongside work from Weta in New Zealand and Gurachi Phoenix in Japan, brought to the project by Barrie Osborne.
The project is part of a scale programme with the involvement of Barrie Osborne, who has helped bring global partners to the project.
They include Weta Workshop in New Zealand, which produced CGI concept art for Lord of the Rings, and Indian screenwriters.
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After two years of being put on hold due to Covid, the project is progressing, bringing a unique angle to the initiative.
The southern USA, the Civil Rights Movement, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King are part of the story.
Contributors include award-winning US journalist and author Karen Gray Houston, Meta Ellis, Dr Valda Harris Montgomery and author Lynda Blackmon Lowery.
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To connect with some of the key characters in the story on the other side of the world, presenters from Corbett Tiger Reserve, in the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India, astronomers from the Mumbai Planetarium and contributors from Bangalore’s Indian Institute of Science are also taking part over the weekend.
Famous patrons and supporters of this project are Joanna Lumley, Dame Judi Dench and Sir Ian McKellen, part of a growing band of actors joining forces and lending their names to help raise awareness of ‘The Heartstone Odyssey’ and Story Circles.
The event will include a photography exhibition by Nick Sidle from the original journey in India in the 1980s that inspired the books, including some of the locations featured in Book 2.
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Artwork from children reading the book across the northwest region and beyond in Heartstone Story Circles will also be presented for the first time at the festival.
They include Preston and Lancashire, the surrounding areas of Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Warrington, Calderdale, Bradford, London and Scotland.
Heartstone Story Circles began in Preston just before the pandemic started with the support of Preston City Council, PWLREC, LANPAC and the Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner.
The project has developed with the additional support of the Gujerat Hindu Society and groups covering all faiths across the city.
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