Wells In Woking
The year 2016 marked 150 years since the birth of H.G. Wells – one of the nation’s greatest science fiction writers and public intellectuals.
The Wells in Woking programme was the brain child of three long-term Horsell residents: Tony Kremer, Peter Beck and Ann Harington. In 2013, they approached the Council with an ambitious list of ideas to celebrate the life of H.G. Wells, who had lived in Woking and written some of his most successful works during that time.
The Council was keen to support the celebration and work began to bring a programme of special events to Woking during 2016 to mark the anniversary of Wells’ birth.Wells’ move to Woking in 1895 inspired some of his greatest works, including The War of the Worlds.
Wells made Woking infamous in the late 19th century, by choosing Horsell Common as the location for his imagined Martian invasion. To celebrate the Borough’s exciting connection with the author, the Council and its partners delivered the ‘Wells in Woking’ cultural events programme, which ran throughout 2016.
The celebrations began in March, with two of Wells’ great grandsons launching the programme, and concluded on 21 September, which would have been his 150th birthday. The special day was marked with a bronze statue of the writer, created by artist Wesley Harland, being unveiled in The Lightbox gallery’s courtyard. More than 20 members of the Wells family travelled from locations worldwide for the occasion.
The story of Wells in Woking is one of inspiration, imagination and success. Celebrations for this science fiction heavyweight included talks, guided walks, art projects and themed activities. The programme raised cultural awareness of the writer and his genre among a wide variety of audiences, ages and backgrounds, as well as academics, authors, the sci-fi community, and people interested in art and culture.
Other special anniversary events:
- Party in the Park:
Woking's biggest and best outdoor party for the community was themed in honour of the Borough's beloved author, and pulled in an estimated 20,000 visitors to help celebrate his life and works. See gallery for some great memories of the event.
- The H.G. Wells Society hosted a three day International Conference at the H.G. Wells Conference Centre, with speakers from the science fiction community all over the world.
- The Council worked with schools, colleges, local artists and adults with learning difficulties and disabilities, to create a variety of artworks, from screen prints to murals. The art was displayed at The Lightbox and Party in the Park. A permanent exhibition can be found in the Griffin Room at the H.G. Wells Conference Centre.
- Well known author Stewart Ross conducted ten writing workshops with local schools, teaching students how to write a short story. Subsequently, more than eighty local people were inspired to take part in an alien-themed short story competition, resulting in a published book of the winning stories.
- The Ambassadors theatre and cinema organised a week long programme of science-fiction-inspired films and music, and a drama production.
- Local historian Iain Wakeford increased participation in his Wells-themed walks, leading people in the footsteps of the unnamed narrator in The War of the Worlds. And the Horsell Preservation Society helped to create the Wells in Woking Heritage trail, and built an easy access path to the sandpits on Horsell Common that are featured in the book.
- A number of Wells-inspired talks were delivered by academics and authors, including local resident and Wells expert Peter Beck, on his new book ‘The War of the Worlds: From H.G. Wells, to Orson Welles, Jeff Wayne, Steven Spielberg and Beyond’.
- The Surrey History Centre delivered a fascinating month-long exhibition, taking a look at what Woking looked like in 1895.
- Even local brewer, The Crown, got involved in the celebrations and brewed the "Horsell Invader" ale for this special anniversary.
Woking Borough Council would like to extend their thanks to all partner organisations involved in delivering the programme:
H.G. Wells Conference and Events Centre
H.G. Wells Society
Horsell Common Preservation Society
Horsell Residents’ Association
Ochre Print Studios
The Surrey History Centre
The Arts Council
The Living Planet Centre
Woking History Society