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Setting a benchmark for creative thinking

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Published on 16 January 2023

Professor Angela Smith with Michael Dixon, Vice Chair of the East Sunderland Area Committee
Professor Angela Smith with Michael Dixon, Vice Chair of the East Sunderland Area Committee

The language of Lewis Carroll is inspiring visitors across a Sunderland city centre park to mark the 150th anniversary of one of the author’s most popular books.

Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking-Glass are two of the most famous books in English.

To mark the 150th anniversary of the first publication of Through the Looking-Glass, academics at the University of Sunderland worked with the City Council to highlight the connection between Sunderland and these books, by replacing some of the missing brass plaques on benches throughout Mowbray Park with new plaques that feature quotations from the books.

Professor of Language and Culture, Angela Smith, said: “The Alice books are very much about a quest for identity, and the quotations chosen from these books for reproduction on the plaques reflect this.”

Mowbray Park already has elements of existing features linking with Alice, such as the children’s playground based on the chessboard that is central to Looking-Glass, and the large sculpture of the walrus by the duck pond.

Angela added: “Whilst Oxford lays claim to the Alice books, by virtue of Lewis Carrol/Charles Dodgson and Alice Liddell living there, the links between the Liddell family and the Dodgsons can be most clearly seen in Sunderland.

“Lewis Carrol spent most of his holidays in Whitburn, staying with the wider Liddell family. It was during some of these holidays that he started to write what would become Through the Looking-Glass, with the legend of the Lambton Worm forming the basis for The Jabberwocky, and the poem The Walrus and the Carpenter being set on Seaburn Beach.”

The new plaques were funded by Sunderland City Council’s Community Chest, supported by councillors from Hendon, St Michael’s and Millfield wards.

Michael Dixon, Vice Chair of the East Sunderland Area Committee, said: “It was a great pleasure for myself and colleagues in Hendon, Millfield and St Michael’s wards to join together to assist with community chest funding for this wonderful project. It is a great and very original idea and will be a really interesting, added attraction for both children and adults when they visit Mowbray Park. With enough coverage it also should help put Sunderland on the literary map. It was really good to be part of it.”

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