Wednesday 18 - Friday 20 November
7.30pm Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, The University of York

Tristram Shandy
Practical Project 2009

Uncle Toby and Widow Wadman


Welcome to the website of the University of York Practical Project 2009, which this year is a devised entertainment based on the novel Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne. Whatís it going to be like? To be honest I donít really know. But I can tell you that by November 18th around ninety music students will have put together a full evening of Sterne-style nonsense, fully staged, with music old and new, and itís going to be wonderful.

You can watch our trailer on youtube:

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman trailer

About the Project

Why are we doing it? And what is Tristram Shandy anyway?

Ever read the book? Maybe you have started it and not got very far? Itís not an easy read, but it repays effort, and doesnít suffer too much from skip-reading Ė you can dip in and out endlessly, because thereís no real narrative, and what narrative there is, doesnít proceed in a single direction. And there are little self contained narratives that crop up from time to time, and are great fun. Maybe you saw the film (A Cock and Bull Story: Steve Coogan/Rob Bryden)? Itís a film about the impossibility of making a film about Tristram Shandy, and you can find some clips on Youtube (and here on this site).

Maybe you have been to Shandy Hall in Coxwold, about 15 miles north of York, where Laurence Sterne wrote the novel around 1759 Ė which is 250 years ago if my maths serves me right? In fact, it was because of this anniversary that I was approached by Patrick Wildgust (curator at Shandy Hall) to see if we could mount some kind of musical celebration of the anniversary.

The Damnation of Obadiah

As Patrick pointed out to me, the novel makes constant reference to music, and many people consider the book to be musical in its conception. Many composers, right back to Sterneís own lifetime, and right up to Michael Nyman in our own time, have been inspired by the book. There are songs and pieces titled after Sterne. The book offers endless possibilities for music old and new. We are delighted, by the way, that Patrick Wildgust is to act as advisor throughout the project.

So this will be a practical project that invites creativity in drawing out musical and theatrical themes from the novel to make a musical and theatrical entertainment based on it. It will be full of ****** and *****, and if thatís not enough........

On these pages you will find information about the project, the production and the performances, which will be part of the 2009/10 University Concert Series. Students actually enrolled on the project will also be able to access material and news about schedules.

Prof Roger Marsh - Project Leader

Please email: for more information


IPUP Documentaries (Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past)

IPUP is providing stimulating reading materials on the issues of Tristram Shandy and Reenactment