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Samuel Johnson’s 300th birthday goes off with a bang

Children lead the lantern parade into the Market Square.

Children lead the lantern parade into the Market Square.

The official launch of Dr Johnson’s 300th birthday celebrations went off with a bang last night with a lantern parade, a son et lumière display, projected onto the side of the Birthplace Museum, and a fireworks display.

The Town Crier opened the proceedings at Speakers’ Corner, where local children had gathered with lanterns, before leading a procession into the Market Square. Here, the son et lumière (created by artists David Harper, Andy Mckeown and Peter Walker) began with a projection of Lichfield people talking about their favourite words from the dictionary.

Photographs &copy Mrs Woffington.

Photographs © Mrs Woffington.

At 8.20pm it displayed an A-Z of Johnson’s life, voiced by local actors Jane Gentles, Stuart Goodwin, Ken Knowles and David Titley. There was a selection of music by the Lichfield Cathedral Chamber Choir, including A Prayer of Dr Johnson (words by Johnson and music by Sir William Henry Harris) and Ralph Vaughan Wiliams’ Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Meanwhile, on the Market Street side of the building, the creation of Lichfield’s own Dictionary of the English Language was underway. Visitors to the tent opposite the Birthplace front door entered their names and a favourite word into the computer and these were added to the scrolling projection.

The event ended with fireworks over the Market Square, after which members of the Johnson Society gathered at the King’s Head in Bird Street to cut Johnson’s birthday cake.

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