Barrett, Marcus – abstract

Marcus Barrett, Board of Trustees, The English Project, Winchester, UK

The English Project, Winchester, UK

The English Project is a registered charity with a mission to explore the English language and to educate and entertain the public. Although we remain ‘virtual’ at present, there is a growing plan to create a physical space as part of a group of exhibitors in the ancient city of Winchester, England.

The aim is to make Winchester a place where people from all over the world can see, hear and experience the global evolution of the English language. The English Project will take visitors through the development of the language from its earliest days through the moment when Alfred the Great named it ‘Englisc’ and through its enrichment by Norman French to the language of Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton, to its spread to the Americas, to Asia and to Africa and beyond and to the effect of online communication, globalisation and contemporary language change. Using sound, display, exhibition and interactivity The English Project plan to let visitors sample English as it is used and as it has evolved. Visitors will travel from Old English to World English.

The Patron of The English Project is Professor David Crystal, OBE, FBA, FLSW, author of fifty books on the English Language and the leading authority on the subject. The Steering Committee of The English Project includes: Professor Bill Lucas (chair and trustee), Marcus Barrett (trustee), Dr Nicholas Lodge (trustee), Professor Christopher Mulvey (trustee); The University of Winchester sponsors The English Project. We enjoy the support and assistance of many individuals and groups.

The English Project has supported a number of published books to date, including Kitchen table Lingo and A History of the English language in 100 Places. For the last two years we have run a regular blog and we continue to support a range of English language projects which celebrate diversity and development in the language. We have established our own tradition of ‘English Language Day’ as the 13th October, the date in 1362 when English was first used to open Parliament. Each year we celebrate this day with a free English Language Day lecture in Winchester and a guest speaker who gives an address on our theme of the year.

Professor David Crystal who curated The British Library’s highly successful exhibition ‘Our Evolving Language’ has developed a detailed specification for the content of the historical element of the museum. The museum will house a world-class, secure display space for travelling exhibitions. With the Hampshire Culture Trust, The English Project is in discussion with an acclaimed museum designer to create a design brief which combines the birth of English and the birth of England in Anglo-Saxon Winchester. The following drawings from an earlier prototype (courtesy of Haley Sharpe Design) suggest some ideas as to the sort of content an English Language Museum might have. They are simply illustrative at this stage.

We are delighted to be involved in and support the Language Museum Workshop and we warmly welcome contact and co-operation with all participants and those interested in what we are doing.