We have just had an especially exciting weekend here at Seven Stories, celebrating the work of Diana Wynne Jones at 'A Fantastic Legacy: Diana Wynne Jones Memorial Conference'.

In 2010, Diana Wynne Jones very generously donated her entire archive to Seven Stories. Very sadly, Diana passed away shortly after her donation, in 2011. The idea for a conference in her memory was thought as a fitting way to explore the archive and make it widely available, but also importantly to celebrate Diana's memory.

The archive of material is extensive, ranging over her many published and unpublished works,  and even includes her childhood writing! To find out more, click here for our 'Collection Highlight' page, where you can also see digitised images from the collection.

Day 1 of the conference was held at Seven Stories, mostly in the 'Artist's Attic' on level 7 (where the extended roof pokes out on the image below). There were talks from:

  • Laura Cecil, Diana's Literary Agent, to whom we are endebted, as she was mainly responsible for Diana's archive finding it's final home at Seven Stories.
  • Nicholas Tucker, children's literature scholar and childhood friend of the Jones' family, who shed fascinating light on parenting practices of Diana's childhood.
  • Hannah Izod, archivist at Seven Stories for 7 years, who was responsible for cataloguing the collection.
  • Ursula Jones, Diana's sister and now co-author, having recently had the difficult job of finishing Diana's last book 'The Islands of Chaldea'. Ursula described the process of taking up her sister's work beautifully.

Seven Stories, in glorious sunshine on Day 1 of the conference.
Hannah Izod, giving a talk about cataloguing the collection.
We also made sure we had plenty of time to explore the collection, and most conference delegates were very sad to leave at the end of each session. We had many conversations about the archive, and it was wonderful to see people making their own discoveries.

There was also a drinks reception to celebrate the launch of 'Islands of Chaldea', kindly sponsored by Harper Collins, and a meal at the Blackfriars restaurant in central Newcastle.

Day 2 of the conference was hosted by our partners at Newcastle University. In the beautiful Armstrong Building, spread throughout several smaller lecture rooms. 

Newcastle University campus, and the lead up to the Armstrong Building through the Quadrangle.
A suitably mythical looking door led to the conference.
There were 7 panel sessions, and a keynote address by Catherine Butler. The papers given at each session ranged from 'The Colonisation of Fantasyland' by Aishwarya Subramanian to 'Shark-Infest Custard: On chaos as a force for good in the works of Diana Wynne Jones' by Gili Bar-Hillel, with many in between. Details of all the papers can still be found on the conference website here.

These panel sessions explored a huge variety of themes in Jones' books, and it was also interesting to hear from those who had been able to visit the archive before the conference and the discoveries they had made from this. In particular I remember hearing from Gabriela Steinke, who described her experiences opening the papers for the first time from their archival wallets as overwhelming and an "amazing experience". 

Catherina Butler's keynote was very well received, discussing 'Enchanting Places: Readers and Pilgrimage in the Novels of Diana Wynne Jones'. Looking at the sense of place within Jones' novels, Catherine explored the idea of pilgrimage to the various settings, and the level to which these sites have become 'enchanted' through the association. Not only that, but also letting the audience in to discussions she had herself had with Diana about the locations in the novels.

If you want to find out more about this collection, or about any other of our archives then
email: collections@sevenstories.org.uk, phone: 01914952707 or visit: http://www.sevenstories.org.uk/collection.