BBC Radio Merseyside's Sean Styles interviewed WOS founder Dean Johnson this week, ahead of the opening of The Songs of the Somme Exhibition this Friday 1st July.
The interview was part of a special programme commemorating 100 years since The Battle of the Somme, and will air during the week.
WIRRAL GLOBE – 15 JUNE 2016
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MAJOR EXHIBITION REVEALS WIRRAL'S LINKS TO THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME
Cecil Lewis Birth Certificate
Some of our posters for this exhibition
OPENING 1 JULY 2016
A century ago in 1916, The Battle of the Somme commenced, ushering in one of the bloodiest chapters in World War One.
To mark the centenary, The Wilfred Owen Story is mounting a unique exhibition. The museum’s resident historian Lucy London has compiled what is believed to be the definitive list of writers and war poets who witnessed first-hand life on the frontline, many of whom perished in the hell to which they gave voice.
Birkenhead-educated Wilfred Owen experienced the horrors of The Somme himself, inspiring some of his most graphic poems. Serving alongside Owen was Cecil Lewis, who was one of the founders of the original BBC.
Cecil, who was born in Radnor Place, Birkenhead, on 29th March 1898, survived WW1 serving as a pilot in The Royal Flying Corps. He actually flew over the explosion of mines that signalled the start of the Somme Offensive, and was awarded the MC for his bravery.
The commemorative panels also feature Merseyside poet Percy Haselden. Percy joined The King's Liverpool Regiment, and was posted missing in action on 30th July 1916 during the First Battle of the Somme.
The exhibition includes the most detailed account of casualties with a Wirral connection. Curator of the exhibition, Janet Holmes, says, “Lucy's attention to detail is staggering. It is a monumental work of research and may represent the most complete anthology of poets of the Somme.”
The Battle of the Somme was one of the largest battles of the First World War. Fought between 1st July and 1st November 1918 near the Somme River in France, it was also one of the bloodiest military battles in history. On the first day alone, the British suffered more than 57,000 casualties, and by the end of the campaign the Allies and Central Powers would lose more than 1.5 million men.
The Wilfred Owen Story is interested in any stories regarding local peoples’ relatives who may have fought at The Somme, so these testimonies may be added to the archive. They can submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
NEW DISPLAY AT THE WOS
Now proudly on display at the WOS are the amazing textile collages of Sonia Bidwell, here presented by our brilliant resident artist Rebecca Grindley.
This display, as with all the others mounted at the WOS, is curated by the museum’s co-ordinator Janet Holmes, who continues to deliver her ever popular and highly informative talks around the North West. She is also the owner of the nearby Rathbone Studio Gallery.
VISIT AND DONATION TO COMMEMORATE 100 YEARS SINCE BATTLE OF THE SOMME
Much valued supporters of the WOS Lucy London and Paul Breeze paid us a welcome visit this week. We discussed the forthcoming exhibition marking 100 years from the start of The Battle of the Somme on 1st July 2016.
We were also very grateful and honoured to receive their wonderful donation of two remarkable original works by textile artist and storyteller Sonia Bidwell.
WOS AT ST GEORGE'S HALL – 9/10th APRIL 2016
Rebecca Grindley at the WOS Stand
Dean Johnson & Janet Holmes perform Bullets & Daffodils
There were hundreds of visitors to the Wilfred Owen Story stand at The Big Liverpool History Show at the magnificent St George's Hall on 9/10th April.
There was also a spectacular performance of Bullets and Daffodils by writer Dean Johnson and WOS Curator Janet Holmes. This was staged in the hall's former Court Room.
FOR HE'S A JOLLY GOOD POET!
It was a full house at The Wilfred Owen Story this week as the public came to celebrate Wilfred's birthday and the continuing success of our beloved WOS.
Highlights included a wonderful reading by sculptor Anthony Padgett from his book 'The War of the Poets'; also our very own Lesley Johnson read some of her own moving verse on the subject of 'Futility'.
Our volunteers Laura and Rebecca also gave beautiful readings and the whole event was managed superbly by our museum manager Janet Holmes, whose powerful ceramic 'Somme Tiles' were also on display.
In 2016, as we reach the halfway stage of the commemorations of World War One, a unique art exhibition entitled 'Defeated Objects' has opened in the Wirral.
Artist Rebecca Grindley takes a microscopic look at the objects that were crucial to a soldier’s life during the war. Personal artefacts including paper and pencils, tobacco and sweets, to regimental badges and armoury, are painstakingly reproduced in incredible detail.
Wallasey-based Rebecca uses some unusual mediums as her canvas: these include corrugated iron and various forms of wood. These found materials would be commonplace in the battlefields of The Great War.
Most poignantly it is her use of fragments of slate that resonates with the war years. During WW1 paper and ink became scarce. Schoolchildren were issued with slates and chalk as an alternative.
Rebecca feels that the slate produces a dramatic background for her illustrations. The dark grey hue gives shades reminiscent of smoke-filled rainy skies much, like those of the trenches.
'Defeated Objects' is open now at The Wilfred Owen Story
Opening times: Tuesday to Friday – 12 Noon to 2.00 pm. Admission Free.
For further information, contact Janet Holmes on 07903 337995.
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Wilfred Owen Memorial Plaque
There was a good sized audience and Dympna Gould, Visitor Services Manager at the Cathedral was very pleased with the event and said how it gave a in-depth picture of the man.
We would like to thank Manchester Cathedral for their very warm welcome and kind donation.
MANCHESTER CATHEDRAL ADVERTISEMENT:
Manchester Cathedral is delighted to welcome Janet Holmes from the Wilfred Owen Story and Gallery. This talk will last around an hour and give an insight into a man whose poetry marked a significant shift in our understanding of the impact of war and warfare. Wilfred Owen’s early influences will be discussed and it will also trace his journey from boyhood and his time in Birkenhead through to the trenches of WW1. It also examines Wilfred Owen’s impression of his fellow soldier, how that changed through his experience and how he went on to become one of the greatest war poets of our time.
THANKS TO THE REV. ROBERT DIXON FOR HIS KIND DONATION OF THE TOWER OF LONDON REMEMBERS POPPY
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MERSEY POET'S TRIBUTE TO WIRRAL'S WILFRED OWEN
On his recent visit to the Wirral, legendary Mersey Poet Brian Patten paid tribute to his hero Wilfred Owen.
Brian donated a handwritten copy of his poem 'Sleep Now', which was originally dedicated to the memory of the great war poet (who was educated in Birkenhead) when it was first published in the 1960s.
Presenting the transcript to The Wilfred Owen Story Museum, Brian said, “It was one of my first successful adult poems. I think I was sixteen when I wrote it; a few words in it have been changed over the years. Congratulations on keeping Owen's light alive in his hometown.”
Earlier that day, Brian had visited The Ye Old Cracke pub in Liverpool, the scene of his first meeting with fellow Mersey poets Roger McGough and Adrian Henri. Patten recalled many occasions in the bar when John Lennon would be seen having a drink.
The poem ‘Sleep Now' was first published in the iconic 'Mersey Sound' anthology, which is still the biggest selling volume of verse in the UK of all time.
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SLEEP NOW In memory of Wilfred Owen
Your blood moving in the quiet wind;
No longer afraid of the rabbits
Hurrying through the tall grass
Or the faces laughing from
The beach and among cold trees.
Alone in the sleeves of grief,
Listening to clothes falling
And your flesh touching God;
To the chatter and backslapping
Of Christ meeting heroes of war.
Your words have passed
The lights shining from the East
And the sound of flak
Raping graves and emptying seasons.
You do not hear the dry wind pray
Or the children play a game called 'soldiers'
In the street.
Brian Patten's unique personally signed copy of the poem can be viewed in a special series of events commemorating Remembrance Week at the Wilfred Owen Story (see home page for full events list).
ARCHIVE OF SIGNIFICANT IMPORTANCE DONATED
A remarkable cache of rare and highly collectible magazines have been donated to The Wilfred Owen Story. Nearly 50 issues of War of the Nations represent a printed time capsule of World War One as it happened from November 1914 onwards. The collection was very kindly donated by Pamela Parr. They can be perused now at the WOS.
WIRRAL HERITAGE OPEN DAYS 2015
The Wilfred Owen Story is proud to be part of this annual event. We will be open from Tuesday 8 September to Friday 11 September for the open events.
For full details of all venues and their opening days see here.
WILFRED OWEN STORY NAMED IN TOP MERSEYSIDE MUSEUMS
Coinciding with National Museum Day, The Wilfred Owen Story in Birkenhead has been placed second in the top nine of some lesser-known smaller museums in Merseyside.
Based in Argyle Street, The Wilfred Owen Story opened its doors on the poet’s birthday (18th March) four years ago. It is the UK's only permanent exhibition dedicated to the World War One poet, who was educated in Birkenhead.
Visitors from all over the world have praised the display, which is run by volunteers and is free to enter. The BBC's Inside Out programme also featured the museum on TV.
Solely financed by public donations, the WOS has been the focus of many schools and colleges in Wirral as Owen features predominantly in the curriculum.
The full top nine Merseyside museums are listed here.
LAUNCH OF ICE PICKS & VIOLETS TO TAKE PLACE AT THE WILFRED OWEN STORY ON 11 MAY
DOUBLE CELEBRATION FOR WILFRED OWEN'S BIRTHDAY
18th March 2015 marks the 121st birthday of war poet Wilfred Owen.
Educated in Birkenhead, the town also boasts the UK's first and only permanent exhibition dedicated to the WW1 poet’s life and work. The tiny Wilfred Owen Story museum was opened on Wilfred's birthday four years ago and has gone from strength to strength.
Run entirely by volunteers and dependent on donations by visitors, it has had many of the Wirral's schools pay a visit, and also Owen enthusiasts from all over the world.
Next month, over 50 French students will be welcomed through its doors. The birthday double celebration will be marked this year with poetry readings and the screening of a documentary that was made by the BBC of Wilfred's time in Birkenhead. As usual, admission is free to the exhibition and there will be complementary refreshments.
The event takes place Wednesday 18th March 11am -2pm