I will not cease from Mental Fight,

Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:

Till we have built Jerusalem,

In England’s green & pleasant Land.

William Blake’s short poem, embedded in the preface to his epic poem Milton, over 200 years ago, continues to rouse passions, whether it be at the start of the day’s cricket play, the last night of the Proms, mis-appropriation by the far right or just by those who feel the need for a rousing national anthem. It wasn’t until 1916, when Sir Hubert Parry set the poem to music, that a minor part of one of Blake’s major works took on national status.

Used across the party political spectrum in the early 1900s, as well as by the suffrage movement and the Church of England, the newly retitled Jerusalem went on to become the anthem of English patriotism. But what would Blake, a man previously charged with high treason, make of his poem being used to encourage patriotic fervour?

Join Blake expert, Jason Whittaker, cultural commentator, Boyd Tonkin and poet, Ben Okri, as they discuss the origins and evolution of this much-loved yet increasingly divisive poem. The event will be chaired by the Very Rvd Jerry Lepine and will culminate in a special performance by the Bradford Cathedral Choir.

About The Speakers

Ben Okri

Ben Okri is a highly acclaimed author and poet whose many books include The Famished Road, which won the Booker Prize in 1991. His work blends history, myth and folktales to explore the workings of the soul and the nature of humanity and has been translated into 26 languages. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and has been presented the Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum for his outstanding contribution to the Arts and cross-cultural understanding. He was born in Nigeria, and lives in London.


Boyd Tonkin

Boyd Tonkin is an award-winning journalist who currently writes on literature and culture for The Financial Times, The Economist, Newsweek and The Spectator. He was previously Literary Editor and then Senior Writer at The Independent, where he re-founded the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and judged the award for 15 years. He chaired the jury of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize, and now serves as the prize’s Special Adviser.

Jason Whittaker

Professor Jason Whittaker is Head of the School of English and Journalism at the University of Lincoln. He has written and edited six books on Blake including Radical Blake (2002) and Blake 2.0 (2012), concentrating mainly on the reception of Blake by contemporary writers, artists and thinkers.

About The Chair

Jerry Lepine

The Very Revd Jerry Lepine has been Dean of Bradford since 2013. Since being in Bradford he has been involved in the creation of Yorkshire’s new super diocese and has particularly enjoyed the Cathedral’s involvement with city life and regeneration.  His wide-ranging interests include sport, cinema, music and travel.

About The Performer

Bradford Cathedral Choir

Bradford Cathedral Choir leads the choral worship at the Cathedral, as well as touring, recording and broadcasting. The choir is professionally directed by Alexander Woodrow and has an extensive repertoire ranging from plainchant to the present day. The choir’s latest CD, a recording of settings of the Evening Canticles, includes our own Bradford Service by celebrated composer Humphrey Clucas