top of page

Byron 200: Byron’s Bash and Vyronas-Nottingham agreement

Updated: May 2

By Marysia Zipser

Writing from Nottingham, City of Rebels, where Lord Byron looms high as one of our most famous literary icons and as revolutionary Romantic poet, it is with pride to promote some of the events and activities taking place in our city and county to celebrate the 200 year anniversary of his death in Greece on 19th April 1824.  


Newstead Abbey is one of the ancestral homes of the Byron family. A former monastery, it was awarded to the Byron family in 1540 by Henry VIII after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Our 6th Lord George Gordon Byron lived here between the years of 1808 and 1814 and it still remains littered with remnants of this infamous poet to this day. There are over 5,500 objects in this city council museum. His gravesite remains in Nottinghamshire to this day at St Mary Magdalene's Church, five miles away in Hucknall. Visitors from around the world make pilgrimages to Hucknall to see Byron's last resting place and learn about his life and works.  Cities and towns around the world are also celebrating in his honour including Vyronas suburb of Athens, Messologhi, Argostoli, Geneva, Rome, Venice, London, Cambridge and many more. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the first day of Byron’s Bash weekend 20th/21st April at Newstead Abbey. My grateful thanks to Councillor Pavlos Kotsonis, Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture, for inviting me to join his special guests from Greece, Giorgos Dovolos, Councillor at Vyronas Municipality and representative of the League for Philhellenism and Culture, Constantinos Velentzas, representing the Museum of Philhellenism in Athens, Dr Richard Gaunt, Assoc Professor of History at University of Nottingham, Simon Brown, curator, Ron Inglis, Service Manager Nottingham Museums & Galleries and Paul Macmahon of RIBA national council.

L-R Back - Dr Richard Gaunt, Ron Inglis, Mike Macmahon Front L-R - Constantinos Velentzas, Giorgos Dovolos, Pavlos Kotsonis, Marysia Zipser,

With a beautiful blue sky backdrop, the abbey house, gardens and lakes were sparkling. So many visitors came dressed in beautiful Regency costumes to join the many similarly dressed team of volunteers. A newly curated exhibition by Simon called 'A Sensational Life' was fascinating (continuing throughout the year) with specially commissioned figurines by artist Jemma Gowland. There was a beautiful and emotional singing and recital performance in the Great Hall by Sneinton C of E primary school together with wonderful talks, poetry recitals and theatricals throughout the day and Sunday in the house and gardens. Added to that was Regency dancing, and a host of Newfoundland dogs to welcome us on the front lawn, some of which were pulling mini carriages of excited children.   There is also currently a ‘Personal Perspective Film’ and ‘Object of the Month’ researched and presented by Dr Sam Hirst, Academic Fellow, University of Nottingham.

There were opening commemorative speeches in the rose garden by councillors Kotsonis, Dovolos, Velentzas and Ilias Alexandrakis chair of the Greek School of Nottingham committee and I publish below extracts from Pavlos Kotsonis’s speech.  There are Youtube links of these at the bottom of the blog.

"It gives me great pleasure to be welcoming you here today. We are this year holding a number of activities and exhibitions in Newstead Abbey inspired by the great romantic poet and his love for Greece. We are currently holding an exhibition in Newstead Abbey called ‘Byron: A Sensational Life’ which celebrates Byron’s life, and today we launch Byron’s Bash weekend, thank you all for coming today, and welcome to Sneinton primary. 

In terms of our Newstead exhibitions this year we are indebted to a number of partners:- Art Council England, Nottingham University, Nottingham Trent University, Inspire Libraries, the Lace Market Theatre, UNESCO City of Literature to mention just a few - we are also thankful to the inspiration given to us by other exhibitions such as Edina Athena exhibition which took place in Edinburgh in 2021-2 or the celebratory soirée at Napier’s Garden in Argostoli in August 2021.  

But this year's festivities and exhibitions we hold in Newstead are also the product of a long journey which has many links with the continent. In November 2021 as assistant exec member I led in the formation of a friendship agreement between Nottingham City Council and Vyronas municipality, (a suburb of Athens that takes its name out of Lord Byron). The friendship agreement was signed by Mayor of Vyronas Katopodis and our leader David Mellen. But it was indeed the help of Panos Trigazis and the League of Philhellenism and Culture which he chairs that was catalytic in making it happen - thanks to Cllr Dovolos for making the long trip to represent the league here today. We have recently also met the new Mayor of Vyronas Sotiropoulos and Vice Mayor for Culture Kleiasios who have been extremely supportive to the Vyronas - Nottingham agreement.

We have also forged relations with Rosa Florou in Mesologhi and the Mesologhi Byron Society and with Orestis Kapatos and Rifozo Cultural Society which holds its activities in Argostoli Kefallinia. Our friendship agreement means that whilst festivities are happening in the UK to celebrate lord Byron's life 200 years after his death the same is happening in Greece and a digital exhibition is shared in Vyronas municipality’s website which includes some of the artefacts we hold in Newstead Abbey such as his helmet, and a tile from his house in Athens. We have recently expanded our relations between Nottingham Museums service with the Museum of Philhellenism in Athens whose representatives we met recently, Mr Veletzas is here today honouring us with his presence, we also owe thanks to Ms Varvarigou and the staff at the Greek Embassy in London working under the leadership of Greek Ambassador Tsaousis who hosted an exceptional commemorative event about Byron’s life yesterday where I spoke. I should also thank the Greek School of Nottingham for participating in the documentary video we have produced which has been shared with strategic partners as part of the Byron 200 celebration and to pay tribute to the support of Mr Alexandrakis who is here today representing the Greek School committee.

But a few words about Byron; today we mark 200 years since his death, a great romantic poet not just for Nottingham and Nottinghamshire but also the continent. Today, 200 years after Byron’s death in Mesologhi we remember who the man was, the views he held and the struggles he fought for. Byron was a Whig, one that perhaps was not very characteristic of the Whigs, a sort of Whig of the radical variety who was friends with people like Shelley! A person who was passionate about supporting the underdog and who’s inaugural speech in the House of Lords (February 27, 1812) was in support of the Luddites, those angry rebelling weavers who have lost their livelihoods due to the rapid urbanisation and introduction of new industrial processes in the lace industry in the early phases of the Industrial Revolution. When the government saw those frame breakers as outlaws and was legislating to incur more punishments to them with the introduction of the framework bill Byron in contrast saw them as brothers and sisters and he spoke in their defence in the House of Lords…”

L - Lord Byron in Albanian dress by Thomas Phillips Coaster, 1835, Newstead Abbey R -The reception of Lord Byron at Missolonghi,, 1861, Oil on canvas 1.55 x 2.13 m by Theodoros Vryzakis, Athens, National Gallery.

“...It is that same fight to support those who are experiencing oppression that drives him to fight the cause of many others including the fight for freedom of the Italian nation against the Austro-Hungarian empire at the time and the fight for the liberation of the Greek people. The same dynamic of enslavement and liberation continues when he wonders in Childe Harolde’s pilgrimage second canto on how could the Greece that he learned to love through his studies of antiquity, that glorious Greece that was long gone, how could that come back…”

“…He is of course here thinking of resurrection, and he certainly saw himself to some extent as that person who would come in and provide Greece with money and support to fight for its freedom. It’s the same values that inspired verses like this one that also drove him to forge a link with the London Greek Committee and led him to travel to Argostoli and to Metaxata in Kefalonia and subsequently to Mesologhi where he died supporting the Greek liberation struggle. It may be a myth due to Spiridon Trikoupis’ speech in Byron’s first funeral in Ayios Nikolaos in Mesologhi (on the 22nd of April 1824) but Lord Byron at least metaphorically left his heart in Greece, he loved Greece and fought for its freedom…”

“I would like to finish by thanking all those who are working so hard to bring about the materialisation of Byron 200, it’s been great to have been able to make this celebration a reality and it is indeed the great work of our museums staff - Adrian Davies, Simon Brown and Ron Inglis those unsung heroes - and of our partners in England, Scotland and in Greece without whom none of this would have been possible. 

We remember Byron today and we remember Byron forever - but most importantly we remember him and honour him here in England in Nottingham and in Newstead, and by doing so the Byron 200 exhibition and the widening of the Byron appeal to a number of different partners in our city is of historical significance. Why is that? It is of historical significance as it goes one step further in rectifying the frustration that Bertrand Russell expressed in his speech in the 1930s; that Byron was more revered on the continent than he was in England. Here we are now celebrating him in our Central Library in our temporary exhibition space, in Newstead Abbey with our programming, and activities all over the city. Many thanks for your attention."

Below are Byron 200 information, press releases, video and website links relating to attractions, events and exhibitions happening during 2024 which are being regularly updated by VisitNottinghamshire, Marketing Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, the Byron Society and UNESCO City of Literature.  Enjoy your Byron 200 experiences wherever you are in the world!  Any comments or questions you wish to convey, please insert in the comment boxes below and we’ll get back to you. And please share as you wish via the icons. Many thanks for reading.

Marysia Zipser

Founder & ACT Ambassador

Artwork by Joe Ganech, exhibited in Nottingham Apriil 2017, ACT Out There exhibition.. "She walks in beauty. like the night."

Byron's Bash! Councillor Pavlos Kotsonis opening ceremony speech April 20th 2024

Byron's Bash! Constantinos Velentzas opening ceremony speech April 20th 2024


bottom of page