When asked by his lawyer where he wanted his earnings to go after his death, C.S. Lewis famously told the man, “After I’ve been dead five years, no one will read anything I’ve written.” Now, 50 years after his death, the C.S. Lewis Foundation is throwing a yearlong celebration to honor Lewis’s legacy.
The 50th Anniversary Celebration will last from July 2013 to August 2014, and will consist of seminars, speakers and conferences located both in England and the United States. The activities begin with a summer conference, the theme of which is Living the Legacy: The Vision, Voice, & Vocation of C.S. Lewis. Many notable speakers will discuss just what keeps C.S. Lewis relevant, breaking their lectures into the three themed sections. In addition to listening to speakers, attendees of the summer conference will be treated to performances by musician Steve Bell, actor Anthony Lawton and more yet-to-be-confirmed acts. If avid Lewis fans cannot attend the summer conference, there is another in the fall dedicated to the friendship between Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, and that friendship’s effect on their respective creative impulses. For the truly dedicated, another Foundation program grants weeklong fellowships in the Kilns, Lewis’s main residence.
Holy Trinity Church, where Lewis was a congregation member for many years, is similarly celebrating its 50th anniversary, throwing a weekend jubilee in Oxford. The scheduled activities, though not as focused on Lewis’s legacy, consist of a walk around Lewis’s neighborhood, a premiere of a play about the author, a family day and nightly church services, among other events.
With so much celebration for Lewis, it stands to wonder why his work endures. There are many reasons why readers are still so captivated. Likely because he did not grow up in Christianity but came to it as an adult, Lewis employed clear, catchy descriptions about faith and religion. His work also lacks any concern with the political climate of the time it was written, thereby keeping it from seeming dated to modern readers. Of course, the most notable and compelling aspect of Lewis’s writing is his creation of rich, imaginative worlds. Regardless of any allusions to Christianity, the invented worlds are enthralling and unique. The fantasy world of Narnia certainly draws readers in, and though Lewis was indeed a practiced apologist, he was a storyteller first.
The C.S. Lewis Foundation is made up of those drawn-in readers, and they are dedicated to their motto, “living the life.” To continue to pursue this direction, the Foundation is working to open C.S. Lewis College, “a fully accredited, four-year ‘Great Books’ college with a School of the Visual and Performing Arts.” The school will be inclusive of Christians of all denominations and traditions. The school is currently “seeking benefactors of vision to raise the needed start-up funding to found the College” and has been looking into a campus in Northfield, Massachusetts. Following the start-up, the College will be funded both by regular tuition and charitable gifts and grants. Once established, the College will further the legacy of C.S. Lewis, allowing his words and vision to continue to thrive.