‘Pin-a-Tale’ with the British Library – help to create a literary map, from Land’s End to John O’Groats and beyond

The British Library's 'Pin-a-Tale' online literary map, accompanying the major exhibition Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands

**** Metro | ‘A blockbuster show of British literature’, Night Waves, Radio 3 | ‘There are rare jewels here', The Times

The British Library has launched an online literary map alongside its major summer exhibition, Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands. Writing Britain is a once in a lifetime chance to see such treasures as John Lennon’s original lyrics for The Beatles’ ‘In My Life’, J K Rowling’s handwritten first draft for the first Harry Potter novel and the original manuscripts of Jane Austen, William Blake, Charlotte Bronte, Arthur Conan Doyle, J G Ballard, Charles Dickens and many more.

However, the Library is asking the public to help to curate this landscape-inspired collection beyond the walls of exhibition with an interactive map, ‘Pin-a-Tale’.

Everyone is welcome to choose a literary work, from any period and in any form, and add, or ‘pin a tale’, to the literary map, whether it is a Led Zeppelin song about obscure Welsh cottage, Bron-yr-Aur, or a comparison drawn between J R R Tolkien’s Two Towers and Leeds’s Tower Works. How has the author captured the spirit of a place and what does it mean to the person posting it? The curators’ favourite contributions then become part of the physical exhibition, displayed on a digital projection of a map with twinkling lights representing each entry. The Library is also archiving each of the entries to be added to its digital collections for use by future researchers.

Curated by the British Library’s English and Drama team, the Writing Britain exhibition takes visitors on a journey through six different landscapes: rural, industrial, wild, ‘watery’, suburban and the capital. While the exhibition covers over 150 works, including many first-time loans from overseas and directly from authors, spanning the past 1000 years to the present day, it will inevitably miss out some much-loved and possibly little-known literary works.

Highlights in the exhibition include:

  • J K Rowling's original manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – the original manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, lent personally by the author, describes Harry Potter’s first encounter with platform 9 ¾ in London’s King’s Cross station. The manuscript, famously drafted in an Edinburgh café, is scattered with doodles and corrections, and this chapter is inspired by London's King's Cross station.
  • J R R Tolkien’s original artwork for The Hobbit – ‘The Hill at Hobbiton’ is one of the most unusual representations of rural England, on loan from the Bodleian Library. It is described as a small, beautiful country with an extensive pre-industrial farming industry. In The Lord of the Rings, the damage done to the Shire by Saruman seems to be partially based on Tolkien’s childhood memories of changes to the Worcestershire countryside by industrialisation.
  • John Lennon’s handwritten early draft of In My Life. These draft lyrics describe the bus journey from Lennon’s childhood home into Liverpool town centre, recording landmarks passed on the way. The draft includes references to ‘tramsheds with no trams’ and to the demolition of ‘The Dockers’ Umbrella’ – a name for the elevated railway which followed the line of the Liverpool Docks, recalling the specific urban landscape of Liverpool which Lennon experienced as a child.

Jamie Andrews, Head of English and Drama, British Library, and lead curator of the exhibition, says: “We’re really excited at the prospect of uncovering hidden gems that people hold dear and that truly help to build a shared literary landscape. Writing Britain celebrates the incredible collection of great literary works held at the British Library, spanning the last 1000 years and this is a fantastic addition to the Library’s unparalleled collection.”

Free curator-led tours are currently available for visitors to the exhibition.

A youth engagement project, supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, also runs alongside the exhibition. Young people aged 18 – 21 will produce photographs and creative writing in response to the exhibition themes. A display of their work will be shown in the British Library’s café over the summer.

Writing Britain is part of the London 2012 Festival, a spectacular 12-week nationwide celebration from 21 June and running until 9 September 2012 bringing together leading artists from across the world with the very best from the UK.

Notes to Editors:

Pin-a-Tale details required as follows:

• Title of work

• Author of work

• Year of Publication (if known)

• Type of Work (novel, poem, lyric, play)

• Please tell us how this work represents and describes your local area (no limit)

• Location referenced in work (you will be provided with a small map and search box for pinning your tale)

• Link to work (if known/available, ideally from the catalogue)

• Upload a personal or out of copyright photo relevant to location

We welcome contributions from Ireland and the Channel Islands to expand the range of the map and in celebration of the close cultural and literary relationship between these islands.

Visit www.bl.uk/pin-a-tale to contribute to our online literary landscape.

Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands is presented in partnership with Atkins - the official engineering design services provider to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Atkins led the transformation of 246 hectares of heavily contaminated land into an Olympic Park on which the venues and facilities for the Olympic and Paralympic Games could be built along with the revitalisation of its rivers, canals and natural habitats. For further information, please visit http://www.atkinsglobal.com/twenty-twelve

The exhibition and associated public events and learning programme is kindly supported by The John S Cohen Foundation and The Basil Samuel Charitable Trust

We are grateful to the Paul Hamlyn Foundation for its generous support of a dedicated youth engagement programme to accompany the exhibition.

For more information please contact:

Evie Jeffreys or Ben Sanderson at the British Library

+ 44 (0) 20 7412 7110


Booking information

To book tickets for Writing Britain visit www.bl.uk/writingbritain, call 01937 546546 (Mon - Fri, 09.00 - 17.00) or buy tickets in person at the British Library.

Exhibition opening hours

Monday 09.30 – 18.00, Tuesday 09.30 – 20.00, Wednesday – Friday 09.30 – 18.00, Saturday 09.30 – 17.00, Sunday and English public holidays 11.00 – 17.00

All galleries are accessible by wheelchair. Information can be requested from Visitor Services staff on: T +44 (0)20 7412 7332.


An exciting programme of talks, discussions, film and performances accompanies the exhibition – taking a deeper and sometime surprising look at the themes of place and space. Speakers will include language expert David Crystal, landscape writer Robert MacFarlane, author Iain Sinclair and many others to be announced soon. http://www.bl.uk/whatson/

Learning programme

The British Library is offering a range of learning activities to accompany the exhibition, including free workshops and lectures for Secondary and Further Education students that will support the English Literature and Language curriculum; Continuing Professional Development conferences for teachers; and projects with local schools.

Exhibition book

To accompany the exhibition the British Library has published a new title Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands by Christina Hardyment which is available to buy from the British Library shop www.bl.uk/shop (T +44 (0)20 7412 7735 / email bl_shop@bl.uk)

Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands by Christina Hardyment / Paperback: £17.95 / Hardback: £25.00 / Over 100 illustrations / 240 x 220mm / 196 pages

The Paul Hamlyn Foundation is one of the larger independent grant-making foundations in the UK.
It make grants to organisations which aim to maximise opportunities for individuals to experience a full quality of life, both now and in the future. In particular it is concerned with children and young people, and others who are disadvantaged.
It prefers to support work which others may find hard to fund, perhaps because it breaks new ground, is too risky or is unpopular.
It also takes initiatives where new thinking is required or where it believes there are important unexplored opportunities. www.phf.org.uk

About the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival

The London 2012 Cultural Olympiad is the largest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic Movements. Spread over four years, it is designed to give everyone in the UK a chance to be part of London 2012 and inspire creativity across all forms of culture, especially among young people.

The culmination of the Cultural Olympiad will be the London 2012 Festival, a spectacular 12-week nationwide celebration bringing together leading artists from across the world with the very best from the UK, from Midsummers Day on 21 June and running until the final day of the Paralympic Games on 9 September 2012.The London 2012 Festival will celebrate the huge range, quality and accessibility of the UK’s world-class culture including dance, music, theatre, the visual arts, fashion, film and digital innovation, giving the opportunity for people across the UK to celebrate the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Principal funders of the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival are Arts Council England, Legacy Trust UK and the Olympic Lottery Distributor. BP and BT are Premier Partners of the Cultural Olympiad and the London 2012 Festival.

For more details on the programme and to sign up for information visit www.london2012.com/festival

The British Library
is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - www.bl.uk - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.

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