Commemorating Fay Weldon and Hilary Mantel
Bath Spa honours two acclaimed authors with commemorative plaquesFriday, 3 March, 2023
On Thursday 2 March, Bath Spa University unveiled two commemorative plaques in honour of the defining contemporary authors, Fay Weldon and Hilary Mantel. The acclaimed authors will be warmly remembered by the University for their outstanding careers and time spent at Bath Spa.
The unveiling of the honorary plaques took place at the Amphitheatre on the Newton Park campus in Bath, where the lives of these two incredible authors were commemorated by members of our community whose admiration will live on.
Vice-Chancellor, Sue Rigby said:
“It is a real honour to be able to recognise the lives of Professors Hilary Mantel and Fay Weldon with these permanent tributes to their lasting legacies at Bath Spa University. We thank them each for the wisdom they shared during their time here, and indeed for all that they will continue to share through their life’s work.”
Alongside receiving an Honorary Degree from Bath Spa University in 1999, Professor Weldon was awarded Emeritus status by the University after she spent nine years passing on her wisdom to aspiring writers as a Creative Writing professor.
After giving up a career as an advertising copywriter, Weldon published her first novel, The Fat Woman’s Joke. Over the course of her career, she wrote twenty novels, five collections of short stories, and a number of children’s books, non-fiction books, magazine articles and plays for television, radio, and stage.
Weldon accumulated an admiring audience of second generation feminists who celebrated her for her controversy and her candour. She quickly became one the first glass-ceiling smashers and in an era where women were expected to be quiet and compliant, Weldon refused to give up the space she had worked so hard for. In her autobiography, Auto da Fay, she wrote: “We take to fiction, I suppose, because no such thing is going to happen, and at least on the printed page we can observe beginnings, middles and ends and can find where morality resides.”
Celia Brayfield, author and Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Bath Spa spoke of Fay's extraordinary career:
"Fay was the most important novelist of second wave feminism in Britain, not only because of her huge popular success, (she must be the only novelist to have been serialised in a teenager magazine one year and shortlisted for the Booker Prize for the next) but also because of her fearless engagement with the biological reality of women's lives, from pregnancy to cosmetic surgery."
Hilary Mantel was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Bath Spa University in 2013 and joined Weldon in conversation at the University. She was held in incredible regard as one of the greatest English-language novelists of the century, winning the Booker Prize twice for the first two books in her Wolf Hall trilogy.
Celia Brayfield also spoke of Hilary, her friend and colleague:
"She was immensely generous to me when I was working on a handbook for historical fiction writers, and I wanted to include an essay on dialogue which she had written for the Wall Street Journal. I knew how poor her health was, and how heavy the demands of international celebrity were. I approached her agent and asked if I might buy second rights to the article. Hilary replied by rewriting the whole piece for me, free of charge."
Mantel was and continues to be considered an author of extraordinary wit and skill. Mantel and Weldon’s contributions to Bath Spa University mark a treasured creative influence, one that will live on in the plaques that celebrate them and the pages of their beloved books.