King James Bible

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:17 am on 9th December 2009.

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Photo of Margaret Hodge Margaret Hodge Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Culture and Tourism) 11:17 am, 9th December 2009

I am going to come to that, but I wanted to put the Bible celebrations into context among other occasions. I just wanted to mention, also, that a lot has been happening this year in connection with the accession of Henry VIII.

The Government do not themselves run the events for commemorations-and that particularly applies to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which is a tiny Department, most of whose money goes out to various agencies and funded organisations, which work with us but independently of us. That is important in the artistic and cultural world. We do not run events, but facilitate them. The Department tries to make the appropriate links and bring about appropriate working together, to ensure that things are properly commemorated. We are doing that for the Bible anniversary.

The 2011 Trust, which the hon. Member for Upper Bann mentioned, is very important. Just as we did not do the work on the Darwin commemoration, which was mainly done by the Natural History museum-I know that Darwin may be a bit contentious-so the 2011 Trust will take the leading role, supported by the Government, for all the purposes that I have outlined. We are not standing back. The trust is pulling together events, publications and literature to celebrate the impact of the Bible on our history and language, in this country in particular, and throughout the English-speaking world. I am interested in its suggestions on commissioning new music and literature and encouraging study days in cities along James's route from Scotland to London, and its plans to develop educational projects in schools, publish new texts and support exhibitions in London and around the country where the translations were made.

Equally, the British Library-an institution that we fund and sponsor-is making plans for one of the two copies of the King James Bible that it holds to be a star item in a forthcoming exhibition called "The Making of the English", which will, we hope, be launched in November 2010 and run to April 2011. It will explore the English language and its national and international diversity. Iconic collection items will be set alongside everyday texts, to show the many social, cultural and historical strands from which our language is woven. The King James Bible will be featured alongside other important treasures, such as "Beowulf", Shakespeare's folios, Johnson's dictionary, Austen manuscripts, Scott's diaries and recordings of speeches by Pankhurst, Churchill and Gandhi. I have been privileged, as a Minister, to see and listen to some of those exhibits. The exhibition will be very exciting, and will also display hand-written letters, recipes, posters, lists of slang, trading records, adverts, children's books, dialect recordings, text messages and web pages.