Regenerating Regional Culture: A Study of the International Book Town Movement
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This thesis explores the international Book Town Movement that, from its beginnings in the small Welsh market town of Hay-on-Wye in the early 1960s, has escalated to incorporate more than 50 villages and towns in 27 countries. This phenomenon has enabled peripheral communities in Europe and across the globe to reclaim their economic futures and impact on the cultural sphere as increasingly powerful sites and sources of creativity. This study seeks to understand the reasons for this renaissance of interest in the preservation of traditional print culture in the countryside at a point in history when the book publishing industry is in a state of flux as it adapts to new digital technologies and globalisation of markets, leading to a clarification of the relationship between new books and the second-hand book economy. At the centre of this investigation is an acknowledgement of the book as a unique item of cultural consumption and a catalyst in book town creation – at once a remarkable artefact and a springboard for contemporary cultural debate. Essential to an understanding of book towns is their location on the geographical periphery and their capacity to sustain regional culture and identity. This thesis analyses innovative book town examples from diverse parts of the world using four key research methods: site-based research, case study research, cultural policy research and book culture research. This research aims to inform a broader discussion of regional regeneration and cultural policy development through an investigation of book towns as ‘down on their luck’ places, reanimated to celebrate remarkable pasts and designed to captivate a growing middle-class cohort drawn to nostalgia, history, cultural heritage and tranquil rural settings that deliver both intellectual stimulation and wellbeing. The synergy of the book town ethos with a number of evolving global tourism trends – including cultural tourism and, more recently, post-tourism – has heightened their desirability. By exploring the history and origins of the Book Town Movement, the thesis links book towns to the entrepreneurship of bibliophiles seeking more utopian lifestyles, and culture-led regeneration by governments wanting to harness their capacity to increase social capital and generate economic revival.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Humanities, Languages and Social Science
Item Access Status
Book Town Movement