Local author says Bedford can do more to celebrate John Bunyan

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A local author says Bedford needs to make more of its most famous son, John Bunyan, and his book The Pilgrim’s Progress, which is the third most published book in history.

Ruth Broomhall, co-author of To Be A Pilgrim, recently organised a project to help schools around Bedford teach children about the tale and its author.

In the video below she explains why Bedford needs to do more to show pride in its John Bunyan heritage and why…

The Pilgrim’s Progress is an epic tale symbolising the good man’s pilgrimage through life, following the main character Christian as he faces distractions, challenges, and perils at every turn of the way.

But, as all good heroes do, he ends victorious, with guides helping him on the narrow path to the distant Celestial City.

John Bunyan was born in Elstow in 1628. At 16, he joined the Parliamentary Army during the civil war. After the war he returned home, becoming interested in religion after he was married.

When the reformation of the monarchy outlawed non-conformist Christianity, Bunyan was arrested for refusing to stop preaching and spent twelve years in a gaol on Bedford Town Bridge.

It’s here that he started The Pilgrim’s Progress and a few years after his release in 1672, it was published.

John Bunyan by Thomas Sadler 1684
John Bunyan by Thomas Sadler 1684.

It is regarded as one of the most significant works of religious English literature and had been translated into more than 200 languages. It has never been out of print.

Ruth says while Bunyan’s tale was written in 1678, it’s as important now as ever: “The characters in The Pilgrim’s Progress are as relevant to children today as they were in previous centuries.

“The story is timeless, inclusive and challenging, but also great fun.”

A new animated film, starring John Rhys-Davis, has also been made and is due to be released in the USA mid-April. A UK release date is still to be announced.

Film makers have said: “This is the first ever, feature-length CGI animated film of the world’s 2nd most important book in history.”

The Pilgrim’s Progress was the second best selling book, behind the Bible, for centuries.

More recently it has been overtaken by Harry Potter. But its influence still continues far and wide, a John Bunyan theme park has even been built in South Korea.

“John Bunyan is famous around the world with visitors from the United States, Europe and even South Korea, turning up regularly in coaches to his birthplace of Elstow and the Bunyan Church and Museum,” added Ruth.

“Yet his life and work is not part of our local curriculum.”

The resource packs Ruth delivered to schools included The Pilgrim’s Progress curriculum and frieze as well as additional material from The Word Bookshop, John Bunyan Museum and Day One Publications.

The Pilgrim’s Progress school packs delivered to Great Barford School.

The materials are also available at www.palacebeautiful.co.uk, The Word bookshop on Castle Road, and John Bunyan Museum and Church on Mill Street.

Funding for the resources come via the local Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE) and the Westhill Foundation.

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