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$6m campaign to create Tolkein Museum: Project Northmoor

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Tolkien Museum fundraiser

Lord of the Rings actors, including Sir Ian McKellen and Martin Freeman, are backing the a $6 million crowdfunder Project Northmoor, which hopes to turn J.R.R. Tolkien’s Oxford home into a museum and literary centre.

The ambitious crowdfunding campaign has been launched to save 20 Northmoor Road, the listed property where J.R.R. Tolkien wrote both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Author Julia Golding is spearheading the campaign, supported by many celebrities connected with the Middle Earth fantasy universe, including Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman and Sir Derek Jacobi. The crowdfunding campaign, which launched on December 2nd, has just three months to hit its target of $6 million USD (£4.5 million).

$5.3 million would cover the purchase of the house with the remainder being spent on renovations, start-up costs and the development of literary programmes. Once established, the centre would be financially self-sustaining.

Tolkien Museum house

The charity Project Northmoor hopes to buy the listed house before it is put on the open market, setting up a literary centre in honour of its famous former resident.

“To raise six million dollars in three months is a huge challenge,” says Julia Golding, a novelist and screenwriter. “However, we need only to look at Frodo and Sam’s journey from Rivendell to Mount Doom, which took that same amount of time – and we are inspired that we can do this too!”

Sir Ian McKellen is calling on fans to help the project succeed. “We cannot achieve this without the support of the worldwide community of Tolkien fans, our fellowship of funders,” he said. The actor played Gandalf in all three Lord of the Rings films and The Hobbit. He also voiced Gandalf in several game versions of the films.

Many of the celebrities have joined together in a video to promote the project.

The first Tolkien Centre in the world

If successful, 20 Northmoor Road would become the first centre dedicated to the work of Tolkien in the world. John Rhys-Davies, the actor who played both the dwarf Gimli and Treebeard, said that “The vision is to make Tolkien’s house into a literary hub that will inspire new generations of writers, artists and filmmakers for many years to come.”

The house’s position, in a residential part of Oxford, precludes it being open to the public as a museum. Instead it will run retreats, seminars, creative courses and special cultural events for fantasy writers and artists, alongside Tolkien fans. A fund will be set up for bursaries for those from low income backgrounds.
There will also be a comprehensive online programme for those who cannot travel to Oxford.

“It is our belief that the best way to honour Tolkien is to use the centre to inspire new generations of writers and artists, using Tolkien as the spark to light up the imagination,” says Project Northmoor’s website. “The aim is to have something for everyone who wishes to engage with his legacy.

Recreating Middle-Earth

The seven-bedroom Oxford property was built in 1924 and Tolkien and his family lived there for 17 years from 1930. The house remains largely unchanged.

The ground floor rooms will give an insight into how the house looked when the writer lived in Oxford. The upstairs bedrooms, however, will be inspired by various cultures from Lord of the Rings. The garden will be restored and, if funding reaches over the target, there are hopes to build a hobbit house at the end of the garden, a tree-house, and ‘Smaug’s Lair for pipe smokers’.

The centre is not the only legacy project for writers and artists in the pipeline. The $8 million Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration is set to open in London in 2022.

“Amazing response”

Since the crowdfunder launched, fans have flocked to donate. “We’ve had an amazing response,” Julia Golding told CBS News. “Tolkien releases an outpouring of what I can only call love. Many people are giving multiple times to ensure names of loved ones make it into our Red Book of Funders.”

The Project Northmoor crowdfunding campaign runs through to March 15th 2021.

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