Can you bear to join the Big Read?

The polar bear helping to launch this year's Durham Big Read, featuring the book Northern Lights.
The polar bear helping to launch this year's Durham Big Read, featuring the book Northern Lights.
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Something mysterious is happening in Durham as the Frozen North comes to Palace Green.

On Wednesday, a life-size polar bear will take centre stage on a magical set for the launch of the Durham Big Read – and copies of an award-winning book will be given away.

The Big Read aims to inspire a love of reading for pleasure. It is organised by Durham Book Festival, a Durham County Council festival produced by New Writing North.

This year’s title is Northern Lights, the novel by Philip Pullman. It is the first book in the fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials, which has sold 17.5million copies worldwide.

The organisers of Durham Book Festival are giving away 3,000 free copies of the book through schools, libraries, colleges, hospitals, leisure centres – and on Palace Green on Wednesday. Familes are invited to Palace Green to visit the Frozen North (performances at 10am, 12pm and 1.30pm) and pick up a copy of the book.

Claire Malcolm, chief executive of New Writing North, said: “Northern Lights is a genuinely special novel; whenever I mention it to anyone, their eyes light up. Durham Big Read is all about rediscovering the joy of reading and we think that this is the book to get people reading again.

“I hope both adults and children will come along to get their copy, and that families will share it together. We are delighted to launch Durham Big Read with a free public event for the people of Durham, as we invite them to join us on this amazing journey of the imagination.”

• Author Philip Pullman will be appearing at Durham Book Festival on October 17 to talk about his career.

Cllr Neil Foster, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “There is such enjoyment to be gained from getting lost in a good book.

“Through Durham Big Read we want to encourage people across the county to do just that.