Lottery joy for Paine celebration

Plans to celebrate the life of Thetford's most famous son have received a major boost with organisers almost reaching their £100,000 fundraising target.

Plans to celebrate the life of Thetford's most famous son have received a major boost with organisers almost reaching their £100,000 fundraising target.

Officials behind the Tom Paine 200 event spoke of their delight last week after securing a £50,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The cash boost means that Thetford can celebrate in style next year to mark the bicentenary of the death of the 18th century revolutionist and democratic hero.

John Weeks, former Thetford Grammar School headteacher and festival coordinator, said the news of the lottery money meant that they had almost reached the £100,000 target launched five months ago to stage an ambitious programme of events to commemorate the achievements of the renowned writer in 2009.

Oscar winning filmmaker and Paine fan Lord Attenborough is set to open a re-enactment event on June 6 and 7, which will cast Thetford back into the Georgian age.

Street entertainers, drilling musketeers, and rabble rousing politicians will be just some of the characters populating the town centre on that weekend before a gala bicentenary dinner on Monday June 8 on the anniversary of Paine's death.

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The six month long celebrations will also include summer museum displays, workshops, story-telling, concerts, art exhibitions, school events, tours, lectures and a community play.

Mr Weeks said the festival aimed to amuse and entertain as well as do justice to the serious issues Paine himself addressed in his forthright “commonsense” way.

“We are planning an event which will attract visitors from abroad as well as from across the country. But at its heart, Tom Paine 200 is a chance for local people to come together, whether as individuals or through their community groups, to celebrate Paine and to celebrate Thetford.”

“We are delighted that through this Heritage Lottery Fund grant has given us the chance to explore the energy, creativity and resolution of the town, past and present,” he said.

Thomas Paine, who was born in Thetford in 1737 and was the son of a corset maker, was educated at the town's grammar school before leaving Norfolk at the age of 19. He went on to shape the American and French revolutions through his pamphleteering and his major works Common Sense, The Rights of Man and The Age of Reason.

Robyn Llewellyn, head of Heritage Lottery Fund, East of England, said: “Thomas Paine is an important figure in both the history of Thetford and internationally and we are thrilled to be able to help fund this exciting opportunity for people to commemorate his life and works.”

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