Famous names recruited to put Cumbria back on tourist trail

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The Independent Online

Cumbria's tourism industry has called in some big names to tell the world that it is open for business despite the ravages of foot-and-mouth.

Defoe, Shelley and Wordsworth have all been recruited to boost the county's beleaguered tourist trade.

But anyone hoping for even a glimpse of the great figures could be disappointed. After wading across disinfectant- soaked mats and seeing field after empty field where until relatively recently sheep and cattle grazed, visitors will see only modern namesakes of the literary heavyweights.

Nicola Defoe, 20, from Bedfordshire, was nominated by her father to take part in the event. Jason Shelley, 31, is a tax inspector and motorcycle enthusiast from Twickenham, west London.

Catherine Parr, who was born at Kendal Castle and later became Henry VIII's sixth wife, will also be there – represented by Frazer Parr, a Scottish firefighter. Alongside other modern-day citizens who share surnames with historic figures said to be linked to Cumbria's past, including Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, Defoe, Shelley and Wordsworth launched the publicity stunt yesterday on a boat on Windermere.

Today they will attend a "school for ambassadors", at which they will be briefed on their roles for the campaign and have the chance to brush up on the county's cultural heritage.

Charlie Garside, of the Cumbria Tourist Board, spearheaded the idea. He said the people taking part had been chosen because "in most cases" their famous namesakes had cultural links with Cumbria. "We are using the names from our history to do something for our future."

Ian Stephens, the board's marketing director, said: "After the foot-and-mouth epidemic, the message went out that Cumbria was shut, and that if you couldn't go walking there was no point in coming... the majority of our visitors don't come here to walk. They come to see the scenery that inspired these writers and artists."