Redwings Horse Sanctuary has launched its Christmas animation for 2023, which celebrates the life and legacy of Black Beauty author Anna Sewell, with a voiceover by Dame Joanna Lumley.
The actor, presenter, author and campaigner donated her services to the largest horse welfare charity in the UK for the project – which premiered on Redwings’ social media this morning (Saturday 25th November) following a private screening at The Priory in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk last night. The special event also celebrated Redwings’ new fundraising edition of Black Beauty, the world-famous novel, which has been produced in conjunction with the UEA Publishing Project and launched on the anniversary of its original publication date.
Redwings is the custodian of Anna Sewell House, the birthplace of the author, on Church Plain in the town and has opened the historic building to the public, welcoming hundreds of visitors this year including Her Majesty the Queen!
Nicola Knight, Head of Communications and Campaigns at Redwings and a lifelong fan of Black Beauty, said: “This year has been a whirlwind for us here at Redwings. We feel so honoured to have been given the opportunity to look after this special house and the wonderful partnerships we’ve developed because of it.
“This is the first time Black Beauty has directly raised funds for the animals Anna Sewell loved so much and we are indebted to the UEA for the opportunity to work with them on this beautiful edition of the book – which we hope will make it into many a Christmas stocking.
“Dame Joanna Lumley’s support on our animation is something we dreamed of and we’re so grateful for the generous gift of her time.
“We have received some wonderful words from well-known fans of the book from the literary and animal welfare world for which we are so thrilled, and one of these, Master English Saddle Maker, presenter and author Suzie Fletcher, very kindly read a chapter for us at the event last night.
“The shared legacy of Anna and us here at Redwings – a desire, purely and simply, to create a better world for horses – is so intertwined that it feels serendipitous.
“We hope this animation will educate those who weren’t aware of the impact that Anna’s work had, and continues to have, hundreds of years later, on the welfare of horses.”
The Redwings-UEA special edition of Black Beauty – which is now on general sale – includes an original foreword by favourite children’s author Dame Jacqueline Wilson and an afterword by Professor Thomas Ruys Smith of the UEA.
Professor Thomas Ruys Smith, who is a specialist in 19th century literature, said: “It has been a joy to work with Redwings on this project.
“It’s high time that Norfolk’s most successful literary export was recognised for the impact she had on the world, and it’s a privilege to be a part of that effort. We are so grateful to Meantime Media for their wonderful work on the animation and to the Arts and Humanities Council for their support with funding. We hope it will really tell the story of how this incredible fictional creation came to be.”
Praise for the Redwings-UEA edition of the book has come from Susanna Forest, author of The Age of the Horse and If Wishes Were Horses; Martin Clunes OBE DL, actor, writer and presenter and President of The British Horse Society; writer, broadcaster and entertainer Pam Ayres MBE; actor and author John Nettles and Cressida Burton, author of The Ravensbay School Stories and The Starlight Pony.
Suzie Fletcher said: “Who doesn’t know the story of Black Beauty? When Redwings Horse Sanctuary contacted me about the new edition I was immediately transported back to my childhood.
“My love of horses has been the mainstay of my life. As a child who had learning and reading difficulties, I vividly remember saving up my pocket money to buy a copy of Black Beauty. I then spent many hours learning how to read this amazing story with its deep connection to the welfare of horses.
“It is of no surprise that this piece of work has sold in excess of 50 million copies worldwide and has remained in print 150 years after publication.”
Dame Joanna Lumley, who was not able to attend last night, said of the book launch: “Sending my warmest good luck wishes for a terrific success, it is thrilling that Redwings will benefit, and I am certain that Anna Sewell is looking down with delight.”
The special edition is available to buy here for £9.99 or from all good bookshops. Half of all proceeds will go directly to the care of Redwings’ horses and ponies.