A year of celebration and events will be launched this week in honour of the first professional woman writer in English and forgotten daughter of Canterbury, Aphra Behn.
The Canterbury’s Aphra Behn project aims to bring the writer to a whole new audience, raise her profile, establish her as an iconic and important historical figure, as well as a source of local pride.
The project is delivered by Loughborough University and Canterbury Christ Church University, and in partnership with local groups who are already working to raise awareness of Aphra’s work and her Canterbury connections, including the A is for Aphra campaign and the Aphra Behn Society of Canterbury.
The year of activities and events will include exhibitions, plays, walks and festivals for everyone to enjoy and discover more about Canterbury’s daughter.
Born in Harbledown, Canterbury in 1640, Aphra is one of the most significant women writers of any era. Her writing provided a path for other female authors and playwrights, and academics see her works as the beginning of feminism and the foundation for modern women writers.
After she was recruited as a spy for King Charles II in 1666, the government failed to pay her; she became indebted, and it seems that is when she decided never to depend on anyone else for money again and turned to writing for a living.
Today, Aphra should be celebrated and recognised as an icon and a role-model to modern women. Her work gives an insight into her society through the subjects of sexuality, slavery, and poverty. It not only shows us what it’s like to be a woman in the 17th century, it also has relevance for women today.
But despite her unique, sharp, witty, and insightful writing she was dismissed by generations of male critics in the centuries that followed; considered too sexy, too outspoken and too scandalous for later audiences, her creative work slipped out of public view.
Canterbury’s Aphra Behn project will host a series of events and activities that will extend an understanding of Aphra’s work. All the events are underpinned by the extensive research and knowledge of the project team and will include the first production in 350 years of Aphra’s play ‘The Amorous Prince’, an exhibition at The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge and a festival that will attract people worldwide to Canterbury to celebrate the most extraordinary life of this inspirational daughter of Canterbury.
Find out more about Canterbury’s Aphra Behn project.
For more information and to book a place for the launch event at Canterbury Christ Church University on Wednesday 27 September (5pm), visit the University’s events pages.
Canterbury's Aphra Behn is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of UK Research and Innovation.