As Edinburgh’s greatest novelist he is already celebrated across the globe for his literary masterpieces.
Now the city is to celebrate one of its most famous sons with an annual Robert Louis Stevenson Day later this year to recognise the achievements of the Treasure Island author.
And it is hoped the celebration will follow the success of Bloomsday, the Dublin event held to celebrate the work of James Joyce, and boost literary tourism to the city.
The City of Literature Trust plans to designate November 13 – Stevenson’s birthday – as Robert Louis Stevenson Day, although this year events will be held on November 17 as it is the closest Saturday. A range of events held across the city, from high-profile speakers and the chalking of quotations from his works on pavements, to a “flashmob” and a continuous public reading of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
Theatrical performances will also take place in the city centre to bring the works to life.
Edinburgh Napier University and the UNESCO World City of Literature Trust are organising the day-long festival following a one-off event last year and Ian Rankin has been behind the bid to ensure it is held every year.
The Rebus author also suggested projecting quotations onto public buildings at night and organising literary tours of locations that played a part in the Kidnapped and Jekyll and Hyde author’s life.
Richard Lewis, the city’s culture leader, said: “Robert Louis Stevenson is one of Edinburgh’s most treasured sons and the creation of RLS Day would be a fitting tribute to his life, work and legacy. We assisted with a number of special events held across the city last November, all of which generated significant interest, so clearly the public shares our enthusiasm. Of course, we already pay tribute to him year round with the city’s fascinating Stevenson archive on display in the Writers’ Museum.”
In June a rare collection of Stevenson-related materials, including first editions and hand-written letters, was donated to Edinburgh Napier University and the National Library of Scotland.
It is planned that the material, totalling 2000 books, will eventually be made available to the public, and it is anticipated that this will support the development of the Robert Louis Stevenson Day.
Professor Linda Dryden, director of the Centre for Literature and Writing at Edinburgh Napier University, said there is expected to be international interest in the celebration of Stevenson, who she said has had a comparatively low profile compared to other respected authors.
She said: “A perennially popular author and an international brand, there are scholars around the world who study his works but Stevenson himself has never really been celebrated in any significant way as the son of Edinburgh. We want to bring together people who are interested in Stevenson and we anticipate there will be international interest.”
Edinburgh City Council was expected to formally approve the proposal today. It has already awarded £33,000 in funding to the City of Literature Trust.