Watch Video: Artists Talk

CLICK HERE to watch a conversation between artist Paul Smith and Professor Ruth Livesey, exploring Paul Smith’s exhibition, UNCERTAIN PROMISES: The Unofficial George Elliot Countryside.

Paul Smith’s new paintings come from his time exploring George Eliot’s legacy in Nuneaton, as part of the writer’s bicentenary, and reflects her understanding of modern English life as being illustrated by the psychology of its marginalia. All rights reserved.

Introduction by Paul Appleton and with thanks to Charmaine Stimson and Kate Proudman of One Paved Court. Recorded in February 2022.

Project Partner: Dash Arts

We are delighted to work with Dash Arts on The Great Middlemarch Mystery. Part-immersive theatre experience and part-mystery game, this multi-location production puts a modern twist on George Eliot’s Middlemarch and its story of the hopes, dreams, disappointments and scandals lived out within a Midlands town.

Taking place 7 – 10 April 2002, as part of Coventry UK City of Culture 2021. Tickets will go on sale in early 2022.

Do you want to take part? Check out our participation opportunities for this project.

Dash Arts creates exceptional artistic experiences that bridge divides across art forms, cultures, languages and communities.  Over the last 15 years, we’ve created award-winning new work with over 9,000 artists and participants for audiences of over 350,000 worldwide. Our international productions, live and digital events and education programmes expand the way we see the world. Dash Arts is led by Chief Executive and Artistic Director Josephine Burton.

Teaching Silas Marner at KS3/ Y9

Teaching George Eliot at secondary school level can be quite a challenge. Working with our partners the George Eliot Fellowship and local English teachers in the Midlands we’ve co-designed 12 lessons on George Eliot’s Silas Marner aimed at Y9 (13yr olds).

Our focus – thanks to the input of beacon teacher Wendy Lennon – is an enquiry question: ‘What is Community?’ Project Teaching and Research Associate, Colette Ramuz (an experienced secondary school head of English) has led the development of resources. The pack has been designed to build KS3 students’ analysis skills, to foster communication skills and, more specifically, to help prepare your students for GCSE English Literature Papers 1 and Paper 2. There are cross-curricular links with Art, History, Geography, RE and PSHE. The lessons have been designed with depth and detail to challenge top sets but are readily adaptable with alternative tasks for lower sets.

   Individual lesson folders contains a 1 page outline Scheme of Work, a slide show for the class, and extracts from the text which form the focus of close work each session. Lesson 1 comes with a package of background notes on Eliot, her novella Silas Marner, and its contexts.

Thanks to the support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, these resources are all free and open to reuse. We would also like to thank Simon Winterman, Allisha Miller, Wendy Lennon, Roberta Gillum, and the George Eliot Fellowship as well as Teacher Hub at the Department of English at Royal Holloway, University of London, for all their support.

We welcome feedback on these resources, how you plan to use them and what changes they make to how you approach teaching texts of this period. We will send a free copy of the DVD of the 1985 BBC adaptation starring Sir Ben Kingsley to the first 10 users who answer these four brief questions by email to We are also happy to share a single zip file for the scheme of work on request which we can’t do on WordPress – hence the multiple downloads!

  • How do you intend to use these resources?
  • Has this set of resources changed your thinking about approaching this text?
  • What might you do differently as a result of looking at these resources?
  • Will the approach taken in these resources change your teaching practice/planned teaching in any way?

Lesson 1: What is Community? Introducing George Eliot’s Silas Marner

Lesson 2: Silas’s Communities

Lesson 3: Money

Lesson 4: Family

Lesson 5: Objects

Lesson 6: Speech and Accent

Lesson 7: Gender

Lesson 8: Community and Change

Lesson 9: Loneliness and Secrets

Lesson 10: The Ending

Lesson 11: Courtroom Drama: Eppie’s Community

Lesson 12: Assessment

Teaching George Eliot: KS2 English Writing for a Rich and Broad Curriculum

On this page you can find a set of resources for teaching George Eliot at KS2. These were designed for our work with local schools in the Midlands around Eliot’s bicentenary, but they can be adapted for use anywhere with some tweaking.

Please do reuse and adapt and share these resources. We would be very grateful if you left some feedback on the resources as a comment on this page letting us know how you are using them and suggesting any thing we might add to support you.

The set includes brief teacher notes and outlines for each task:

  • 1. a brief intro to Eliot’s life and work pitched at Y5/6 listeners (this is followed by a site specific quiz relating to St Mary the Virgin Church, Astley and Eliot’ Scenes of Clerical Life (1857);
  • 2. A monologue by Mary Ann Evans (Eliot’s real name) with a task in which pupils write questions for her to answer;
  • 3. A creative writing exercise designed by project writer in residence Anna Lawrence, asking pupils to devise a new everyday setting for Eliot to use in her next novel;
  • 4. Two short-story frames/openings adapted from Eliot’s Silas Marner and ‘The Lifted Veil’;
  • 5. A poetry cut-up exercise in which pupils piece together phrases from Eliot’s ‘Brother and Sister Sonnets’.

Project Partner: Writing West Midlands

We are delighted to be working in partnership with Writing West Midlands. From its base in Digbeth, in Birmingham’s creative quarter, this agency is doing outstanding work developing and supporting writers of diverse levels of experience across the region.

The project writer in residence, Anna Lawrence Pietroni, and the PI will be co-designing and leading a short course with WWM at the Birmingham Midlands Institute in autumn 2019. The course draws on project research on George Eliot’s work to develop new writing about place and belonging in the Midlands now. You can register for a place on the course here.

How can our writing communicate a sense of home and belonging or bring to life a place that readers have never seen? This short course will offer writers based in the Midlands the opportunity to craft their skills in evoking settings – whether imagined, remembered, or the everyday. The course draws on the radical example of the nineteenth-century writer, George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans), born two hundred years ago in North Warwickshire, to explore what it means to write in or about the Midlands now. Works by course participants may be featured as part of the George Eliot bicentenary celebrations in 2019, with follow-on opportunities for publication. This course is designed for emerging writers who are looking to develop their work further.

The Unofficial George Eliot Countryside

Since the start of this project in February 2019, Ruth has walked a route around Nuneaton every month. The walk starts from Griff House, up Gipsy Lane, along the canal, across to Bermuda, into the Arbury Hall estate and looping back through industrial estates to Griff – and ending with a large slice of cake at Astley Book Farm after visiting Astley Castle. Taken in the company of the project writer in residence, Anna Lawrence Pietroni, and then the project designer and map-maker, Paul Smith, the result will be a collaborative photo-essay and downloadable map on this site.

Ruth Livesey, Principal Investigator

Ruth is Principal Investigator of the AHRC Leadership Fellowship, ‘Provincialism: Literature and the Cultural Politics of Middleness in Nineteenth-Century Britain’. She is Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature and Thought in the Department of English, Royal Holloway, University of London. Her work adapting and co-writing the Great Middlemarch Mystery with Josephine Burton forms part of the larger AHRC funded engagement project ‘Finding Middlemarch in Coventry 2021′.



This is the home page for the Arts and Humanities Research Council funded projects ‘Provincialism: Literature and the Cultural Politics of Middleness in Nineteenth-Century Britain‘ and ‘Finding Middlemarch in Coventry, 20212022‘.

Finding Middlemarch in Coventry, 2021 – 2022


In 2021-2022 we continue Eliot’s legacy as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of her novel ‘Middlemarch’, with public events in the year in which Coventry itself is UK City of Culture. Through our current project we will reimagine Eliot’s radical artistic vision of ‘provincial life’ in the Midlands through creative participation workshops and projects in Coventry including a collaborative online exhibition with Nuneaton Art Gallery and Museum and Coventry Archives, an immersive multi-location theatre experience with Dash Arts, and an experimental short film by Redell Olsen. Head over to our Events page to find out how you can get involved.

Provincialism: Literature and the Cultural Politics of Middleness in Nineteenth-Century

During 2019-2020 the project team explored how nineteenth-century writers defined English provincialism. We walked and mapped the countryside around Nuneaton, in North Warwickshire: a place made famous in the novels of provincial life by George Eliot. We brought new readers and writers to the legacy of George Eliot in her bicentenary year through talks, workshops, courses, and teaching packs. Our associated seminar series ‘Provincialism at Large’ featured literary scholars, political theorists, and art historians, working with graduate students to explore what provincialism and the depiction of provincial life meant to the Victorians in an age of imperialism.