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Children are in JRR's wonderland.

Byline: Shahid Naqvi

Birmingham's link to The Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien is encouraging schoolchildren to take more of an interest in the city's cultural heritage.

Sites such as Sarehole Mill and Moseley Bog, known to have inspired Tolkien's epic fantasy, have helped Birmingham record more school visits to museums, galleries and historical attractions than any other metropolitan authority in England and Wales.

A total of 76,213 pupils took part in organised projects during the 2000/01 academic year, beaten in the UK only by Glasgow.

The city's museum service is now so over-stretched it says it is struggling to cope with demand.

'The renewed focus on The Lord of the Rings is one of the reasons,' said Elfyn Morris, deputy head of its museum and art galleries liaison services.

'Especially with the new film coming out there is a lot of interest. Children know all about hobbits and they do relate more closely with it.'

The service, which is run by a team of seven teachers, has recently completed a fortnight of projects in which schoolchildren were taken around Sarehole Mill in Moseley, Tolkien's inspiration for the Mill at Bywater in The Lord of the Rings. Youngsters also visited Moseley Bog, near a former home occupied by the Tolkien family at the turn of last century. Other attractions include the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, Thinktank, Aston Hall, Soho House and Blakesley Hall.

The museum education service was recently given a glowing endorsement following assessment by the West Midlands Regional Museums Council, which gave Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery sites top or near top ranking.

'We have a high number of school visits,' said council spokesman Graham Allen.

'By the fourth or fifth week of term we are always fully booked for visits. We are the biggest museum service and we are offering more places at more sites. We have listened to schools and we engage with them about the needs of their children.'


Sarehole Mill; Moseley Bog
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Dec 18, 2002
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