The Great Barset Balloonathon

On Saturday, 7th February 2015, in front of the British Library and at other venues in the heart of London, the Trollope Society released 200 pillar box red helium balloons with the Trollope200 logo and an attached label with instructions. Those discovering the labels on their descent and returning the label to the Trollope Society will, hopefully, receive a pleasant surprise! At around the same time, many other balloons were released all around the World, at places visited by Anthony Trollope during his lifetime. Similarly places in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales with Trollope connections released additional balloons.

This colourful event marked the beginning of the celebrations for the 200th anniversary of Anthony’s birth on 24th April, 1815 which will include celebratory dinners, lectures, educational initiatives, a wreath laying ceremony, the hosting of the AGM Weekend of the Alliance of Literary Societies in York, book launches, exhibitions and much, much more. The year will also see the appearance of the first graphic version of a Trollope novel and a fine edition publication by the Folio Society of a ‘new’ Trollope novel in the form of the extended text of ‘The Duke’s Children’ taken from the original manuscript.

The Balloonathon will also, hopefully, draw attention to the fact that Anthony Trollope was one of the most travelled authors of the Victorian age. Described as ‘the tireless traveller’ he visited Australia and New Zealand, the West Indies and North America, South Africa, South America and Palestine, Egypt and Iceland and many countries within Europe. He became familiar with most parts of the United Kingdom and was particularly fond of Ireland. Some of his journeys, such as to Italy, were for family reasons as his mother and elder brother eventually settled in Florence. His trips to Australia were inspired by the fact that his younger son, Frederic, emigrated there. Some journeys were for pleasure while others were undertaken as part of his career within the Post Office.

At different times he worked in all the Postal Districts of Ireland and many other parts of the United Kingdom. When he travelled, sometimes for several months, he would generally write and, in some cases these writings would become sharply observed travel books. At other times he would work on one of his 47 novels, short stories, essays or biographies. He was, of course, also one of the most prolific authors of his age and his subtle, sympathetic characterisations of both men and women make him very readable today, His detailed knowledge of many parts of England and Ireland in particular enabled him to write convincingly about fictional locations set within real geographical areas. His wider travels gave him a considerable understanding of human nature and also influenced some of the settings within his novels.

The colour of the balloons has been specially chosen to commemorate Anthony’s successful suggestion that pillar boxes should be adopted in the United Kingdom and the first one was installed on Jersey. In releasing the balloons, the Society made sure that it was following the guidelines and Code of Conduct of NABAS in order to ensure that the event caused no damage to the environment and wildlife.

We hope that some people discovering the labels may be meeting with the idea of Anthony Trollope for the first time and that they may go on to become enthusiastic readers of his works. That many hundreds of balloons will be released all over the World by keen and enthusiastic Trollopians would, we feel, give Anthony a lot of pleasure and we feel that the Great Barset Balloonathon is a very appropriate introduction to our year of celebration!

 Notes to Editors

  • Anthony Trollope was born on 24 April 1815
  • The Balloonathon marks the start of the bicentenary celebrations
  • Balloons are being released all over the world, highlighting Trollope as the ‘tireless traveller’
  • Trollope worked for the Post Office and introduced the pillar box to the UK
  • The balloons are pillar box red, although the first pillar boxes were painted green
  • We are adherring to the NABAS code of conduct for balloon releases.


Dominic Edwardes