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The Tower 1

Zestful writer E. Nesbit celebrated in Bohemia this Sunday

This Sunday, 7 April, is Bohemia Creative Quarter’s special day in A Town Explores A Book 2024, a community arts festival in St Leonards- on-Sea which runs through the school spring holiday. Gail Borrow explains.

From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday 7 April, an exciting exploration round the creative businesses in this area of town will be themed on the life of E. Nesbit, a British author of over 60 books including The Railway Children which is the book choice for #ATownExploresABook24.

Sugarpie Honeybuns’ window

E. Nesbit was a boundary-busting author, who earned a living from writing at a time when women faced barriers to becoming authors. One of her biographers, Eleanor Fitzsimons, noted ‘Reviewers often assumed Edith Nesbit was a man. She was described in The Graphic as “a man of rare poetic gifts and of true honest purpose”’. She added of E (Edith), ‘Reviewing Five Children and It in 1905, at the height of her fame, one critic who described her as “one of the most delightful present-day writers for children”, noting also “He has a wonderful understanding of child nature and his stories usually amuse grown-ups”’.

The Tower 2

Freedom and difference

As Herbert Bland’s wife, Nesbit was known as Mrs Bland, slightly unfeasibly. It was an unconventional marriage that marked Edith out as bohemian alongside William Morris’ circle and others. She was described by neighbour Ada Moore as ‘Always the spirit of originality, freedom and difference . . . a smoker of cigars who just went her own way and the centre of a group of people who did likewise’. Ada added ’No rumour nor gossip was considered too bad to believed about them. They rode bicycles in bloomers, they were absolutely unconventional and careless…  and generally disliked by the very respectable neighbourhood of Lee’.

Elsewhere Edith is noted as a rower, a carpenter, a devoted parent, a swimmer and – crucially – a socialist who was co-founder of the Fabian Society. G Bernard Shaw was among her admirers.  Her links with the south coast include family roots in Hastings and Battle, and the South Downs and Dymchurch in Kent. She died 100 years ago on 4 May 1924 in Jesson, New Romney, where she lived with her second husband.  

Teddy Tinker’s window

Bohemians rally

Local businesses have responded creatively to the centenary with a profusion of window displays, in London Road and Kings Road. On 7 April 2024 three pubs, The Tower, the Dripping Spring and the North Star, and café Sugarpie Honeybuns fling open their doors to mark this anniversary of the death of a female British author who revolutionised children’s literature in her time. Creative businesses Forage & Fleur, MOTH, Teddy Tinker’s and The Mudworks will have many exciting details to discover about E. Nesbit — alongside live music played by festival musicians inspired by E. Nesbit’s lively life. Bohemia Creative Quarter is sited where London Road intersects with Tower Road and leads up to Bohemia Road. It is a vibrant local neighbourhood in St Leonards-on-Sea, proud of its own bohemian heritage.

Cai Jones and Sheffa Katz

The Tower 3

Musicians exploring E Nesbit’s rich life on Sunday in Bohemia Creative Quarter venues are:

Sam Brown
Elizabeth Rajhans
Cai Jones and Sheffa Katz
Vladimir Miller.

Among her artistic skills, Edith Nesbit was a guitarist who created songs from her poetry, played at private social events.  As well as the much filmed and -dramatised The Railway Children (‘Girls are just as clever as boys, and don’t you forget it!’), E Nesbit’s many books included The WouldbegoodsMiss Mischief, and The Red House.

For more information on Bohemia Creative Quarter’s Sunday, 7 April, 11am–4pm, visit

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Posted 11:06 Friday, Apr 5, 2024 In: Arts News

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