Celebrating King Alfred and Saxons

12:00pm Wednesday 31st July 2013

AN ENTIRE Saxon settlement will greet ex-Cabinet members, novelists and BBC producers visiting Wantage this October for the annual Not Just Betjeman literary festival.

As part of the first Wantage Alfred’s Day, a Saxon re-enactment group will create a small village in the Manor Road park, the same weekend that former Secretary of State Michael Portillo will be visiting the town for this year’s literary festival.

The Wantage Alfred’s Day is the dream of Mayor Fiona Roper, who wanted to celebrate the town’s most famous son.

It is now set to take place on the weekend of October 26 and 27, with the 26th being Alfred’s feast day. Mrs Roper said: “It will be great to celebrate the birthplace of the only King of England who is actually called ‘great’.

“It will be good for tourism and to teach children about local history.”

The Not Just Betjeman literary and arts festival, now in its third year, has attracted thousands of visitors in the past two years.

Organiser Jim Mitchell, 69, who organised the festival in memory of poet, writer and broadcaster Sir John Betjeman who lived in Wantage from 1951 to 1972, said this year is set to be the best yet.

He said: “It is a celebration of books. If you love books you have got to come.”

The 40 events planned for the week October 19 to 27 range from King Alfred’s pupils reciting Shakespeare over rock music to a Jane Austen tea party.

Michael Portillo will recall some of the characters and events from his 30-year political career, while John Lloyd, producer of BBC comedy programmes from Blackadder to QI, will be talking about his latest book, Afterliff.

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