Watership Down to be celebrated in Glasgow 50 years on

Watership Down
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A classic children’s novel will be celebrated at a conference in Glasgow.

Next year marks 50 years since the publication of Watership Down by Richard Adams.

To celebrate, academics will gather at the University of Glasgow in September 2022 to discuss the book’s merits and enduring appeal.

Dr Dimitra Fimi is senior lecturer in Fantasy and Children’s Literature and co-director of the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic at the University of Glasgow.

She said: “Watership Down is a classic of children’s fantasy, somewhere in-between animal stories and ancient epics like the Aeneid, complete with an invented language and allusions to a folkloric and a learned tradition. 

“I am so looking forward to new perspectives and debates on this much-loved book.”

It was a book that nearly didn’t get published.

Submitted to more than 30 publishers, Watership Down finally hit bookshelves in November 1972 thanks to the foresight of the small, independent Rex Collings.

Nearly 50 years on, a story of a group of rabbits escaping the destruction of their warren has become a children’s classic and has been adapted for film and TV.

The conference is being co-hosted by academics at  Cardiff University.

The author’s daughter Rosamond Mahony will be among the keynote speakers at the three-day conference.

Watership Down
A children’s classic. Credit: Watership Down cover by Tracey Knight

Rosamond Mahony said: “As custodians of this most beloved novel, our family are delighted that my father’s Watership Down is to be the subject of this academic conference.

“People of all ages continue to connect with the story of Watership Down and its key messages about the environment, leadership and friendship are as important today as they were a half century ago.”

The story of Watership Down began as tales about rabbits Hazel and Fiver that Adams told his young daughters, Juliet and Rosamond, during long car journeys.

Today several million copies have been sold worldwide, it has been translated into well over 20 languages.

‘Watership Down is a classic of children’s fantasy, somewhere in-between animal stories and ancient epics like the Aeneid, complete with an invented language and allusions to a folkloric and a learned tradition’

Dr Dimitra Fimi

In 1978, a feature-length animated film was released with music by Simon and Garfunkel.

In 2018, the story was released as a major animated TV series by BBC/Netflix.

The conference will include the publication of a graphic novel, the first time the whole book will have been faithfully adapted into this format. 

Children’s writer SF Said will also speak at the event. He said: “I read Watership Down as a child.  

“It was my favourite book, and inspired me to become a writer myself. 

Children’s author SF Said is a keynote speaker

 “I re-read it for the first time just after I finished writing Varjak Paw, and was stunned to see how deeply it had shaped my imagination; there would certainly be no Varjak Paw without Watership Down. 

“I believe it has shaped our entire culture, as only the greatest literature can, and I am delighted that it will be celebrated in this conference.”


  • The three-day conference being held at the University of Glasgow on September 2-4 2022.
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