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
02/12/14: SHOCKING WORLD WAR ONE PROPAGANDA CARTOONS ON SHOW
An anthology of controversial cartoons depicting the graphic horror of World War One is to go on show at a Wirral museum. The Caxton Edition of the highly inflammatory sketches was published a century ago, and is the work of Dutch painter Louis Raemaekers. He gained a worldwide reputation between 1914 and 1918 for his biting, often horrific, anti-war cartoons.
The most important aspect of Raemaekers’ career is undoubtedly his role in Allied war propaganda. Soon after his arrival in England he was contacted by Britain's War Propaganda Bureau, namely to ensure the mass distribution of his work both here and elsewhere in support of Allied propaganda. Forty of his most captivating cartoons were published in Raemaekers’ Cartoons, which was immediately translated in eighteen languages and distributed worldwide.
It has been said of Raemaekers that he was the one private individual who exercised a real and great influence on the course of the War. There were a dozen or so people – who obviously, and notoriously, shaped policies and guided events. Outside that circle, Louis Raemaekers stands out as the one man who, without any assistance of title or office, indubitably swayed the destiny of the world.
The images have rarely been displayed in public for decades. Raemaekers’ Cartoons is on show now at The Wilfred Owen Story. Parental guidance should be exercised when viewing the material.
22/11/14: SPOON BECOMES NATIONAL NEWS STORY
Wilfred Owen's Artists Rifles spoon becomes a national news story as TV crews flock to The Wilfred Owen Story to capture more background on its discovery.
Click on each image for a larger version.
21/11/14: WILFRED OWEN'S SILVER SPOON DISCOVERED
War poet Wilfred Owen enjoyed a privileged birth into a well-to-do Oswestry family, but his situation soon changed when the family lost everything and relocated to Birkenhead in 1900.
But now a spoon believed to have been used by Wilfred has been discovered and is about to go on show to the public. The solid silver spoon bearing the emblem of Owen's first regiment from the time of his enlistment has been donated to The Wilfred Owen Museum in Birkenhead.
Wilfred was a connoisseur of tea from childhood due to his father Tom's seafaring days, when he brought home many exotic blends. During Owen's time at the front line he was an avid tea drinker, insisting his mother send him his favourites regularly.
The Artists Rifles was still a relatively small Garrison when Wilfred joined, so he must have used this spoon to stir his morning cuppa (he liked a lot of sugar!). Owen chose The Artists Rifles as his entry into World War One, as he was drawn to the word 'artists', believing that the recruits would be fellow poets and painters. He was dismayed when they turned out to be a very rough lot, and he was often singled out for being posh.
Wilfred's silver spoon is on show from next week and was donated by Birkenhead Institute old boy Les Highton.
The Artists Rifles have a curious history: the unit was raised in 1860 as The 38th Middlesex Rifle Volunteer Corps, and all its members were professional painters, sculptors, architects, musicians, actors, etc. They eventually became a territorial SAS unit, The 21st Special Air Service Regiment. Their cap badge was very well-designed, as you would expect, and featured the heads of Mars and Minerva as an indication of the dual nature of their interests, warlike and artistic.
12/11/14: WIRRAL PARTNERSHIPS' 'WALL OF PEACE' FOR THE GREAT WAR
YMCAWirral has already used the commemorations of the First World War as a foundation to do something positive in the local community by raising funds and creating a bold floral roadside display that has not only remembered the fallen, but also brightened up the local area.
YMCA Chief Executive, Nigel Hughes said, “We started thinking about the commemorations over 12 months ago and with help from research volunteers at The Wilfred Owen Story we started to gain a glimpse of our remarkable organisation’s involvement and contribution to the war effort, both locally and nationally, and discover the part that the organisation played in The First World War.
“Now we are about to work with The Wilfred Owen Story and the Youth Federation to add another piece to our commemorations by inviting local people to create a decorative poppy Wall Of Peace in the YMCA community garden”.
Nigel went on to say, “We had very little information relating to the YMCA's work during The Great War, and thanks to help from The Wilfred Owen Story we have discovered some fascinating history.
“We discovered that the organisation was at the forefront in the war effort between 1914 and 1918. The YMCA’s support for the soldiers was unprecedented in Wirral, involving the YMCA's own building, then in Grange Road, and numerous temporary and prefabricated structures across the area, including a magnificent wooden building built for The Bantam Regiment at Bidston.”
Dean Johnson added, “The YMCA helped us get going when we opened the WOS four years ago, and they have supported us ever since. It is a pleasure to work alongside them on this wonderful commemorative project.”
The aim to decorate the Wall Of Peace with poppies – equivalent to the number of men from Birkenhead who were lost in the First World War including Wilfred Owen. Anyone can paint a poppy in memory of a family member.
07/11/14: WILFRED OWEN – THE FIRST POST
A post box used by Wilfred Owen as a child to send letters to his mother has been discovered in Birkenhead.
Following the loss of Plas Wilmot, Wilfred Owen's birthplace in Shropshire, his family moved to Birkenhead in 1900, where Owen spent his formative years until 1907. Wilfred was able to read and write at just 5 years old, and was a prolific letter writer especially to his mother Susan. He would send her poems and drawings, posting them in a nearby post box.
Recently totally by chance the Victorian(1837-1901) letter box that Owen used has been discovered still in place. The former Owen home is situated in Elm Grove, Tranmere in Wirral, and features as part of a guided Wilfred Owen walk.
Last month, whilst on the walk Rebecca Grindley mentioned that the Victorian post box a few yards from Owen's house would have been the one that the Wilfred would have used. As Owen was only a child, the envelopes would often be minus stamps, so we can only assume a kindly postman must have posted the letters directly to Wilfred's mother before returning to the sorting office.
Rebecca Grindley's sketch of the letter box has now been reproduced by The Wilfred Owen Story Museum as a postcard to commemorate Wilfred Owen's death on 4 November. Price £1.00. Purchasers of the postcard can receive it via the actual postbox in Elm Grove.
02/11/14: AWARD WINNING POETRY FROM NEW ZEALAND
This wonderful poem by Keith Johnson (no relation to Dean) from New Zealand, pays homage to the railways background of Tom Owen, and deals with the accidental death of a track ganger on the Shrewsbury–Crewe Line as a parallel to Wilfred’s death in France. It recently won the Pendle Poetry Competition.
Backed against the oaks, the cattle gather
Minding the din of the clattering train -
Milking is late tonight as the farm lights flicker
And loco smoke and steam meet soaking rain.
On the line, the gangers slack and chatter
And twist a wad twixt palm and thumb
As clanging trucks rough couplings batter
And drive wheels rumble on to kingdom come.
‘Wer’rup’ the cowman calls - the black dog sets -
The sullen charges bunt and frisk in show,
Mocking the winter’s edge, the day’s regrets
They trudge through sleet that threatens snow.
The foreman mutters and bites his lip
‘Hey up Will - shift back young mon -
The ballast can slip and the rails can trip -
Tamping is done ‘til the tender’s gone’.
Buttercup, rush, sedge, thistle and nettle
The year’s-end grassland thin between -
Muddy hocks and hooves at gate halt settle
Awaiting the latch to lift and keen.
But those who wager still in careless gift
As the yawping steel grinds hard
Won’t stand in the cess as the bogies shift,
And the wheel of fortune deals its card.
On the Western Marches lines are broken
Iron has taken its mass and press to heart,
And clag and blemish and blood give token
Where switch and point new journeys start.
Bellinglise, Magny-la-Fosse, Riqueval,
La Baraque, Ramicourt, Joncourt, Oors.
13/10/14: RARE LETTER FROM THE FIRST EARL OF BIRKENHEAD ON DISPLAY
A very rare unseen letter written by The1st Earl Of Birkenhead in 1906 is to go on display in The Wirral.
The letter has been donated to The Wilfred Owen Museum as part of their World War One Centenary Exhibition by Ian Gardler.
Ian's great Grandfather William Gardler was a Colour Sargent in the 'King's Own' Royal Liverpool Regiment. William was also honorary secretary of The Breckfield Conservative Club, Liverpool, and it was while he was there that the Earl corresponded with him.
The Earl, who was better known as F E Smith, was born in Birkenhead in July 1872 and was Winston Churchill's closest friend. Smith was made Baron of Birkenhead in 1919, and was appointed Lord Chancellor.
The Earl was famous for his speeches, and once whilst addressing university students he announced, “The world offers glittering prizes to those with stout hearts and sharp words.”
Dean Johnson, founder of The Wilfred Owen Story, says, “We are proud to exhibit a letter from one of the greatest men of his age. The Earl of Birkenhead is a son of the town and held the position when Wilfred Owen was resident here. It is all part of Wirral's rich history that has made it famous across the world.”
The letter is now on permanent display.
28/09/14: GEORGE'S WAR
We are very grateful to Stuart Keenan for donating these items, and are very proud to tell George Williams' story.
His experience is revealed through a moving series of postcards and pictures sent to his parents John and Mary Williams, and sisters Beaty and Muriel.
George was in The Manchester Regiment at the same time as Wilfred Owen.
27/09/14: WAR POET'S ICONIC SCHOOL'S SIGN OF THE TIMES
The Birkenhead Institute Grammar School is synonymous with war poet Wilfred Owen as his Alma Mater during his formative years.
It was one of the first science schools in the country, and nurtured Owen's love of poetry and Latin. This included the school motto, translated as, “A wise man always has riches within himself.”
But the Institute founded in Whetstone Lane, Tranmere, a few yards from Wilfred's home in Elm Grove, also boasts another dubious distinction: that it was demolished twice.
When maintenance costs could not be met by students’ fees at the original school in 1970, it entered the comprehensive system and amalgamated with Tollemache Road School in Bidston, with the proviso that it continued the legacy of the Institute name as the original site would eventually be torn down.
Now the last remaining artefact that marked an end of an era, and heralded a new beginning, is to be displayed at The Wilfred Owen Story, the UK's only permanent Exhibition dedicated to the WW1 poet. The sign emblazoning the school name was removed by the local authority when once again, the school fell on hard times and was demolished (it is now houses known as Wilfred Owen Drive).
Institute Old Boy and founder of The Wilfred Owen Story, Dean Johnson, says, “I joined the school the year it moved to Tollemache Road, having attended the open day at the Whetstone Lane building. They had moved the school lock stock and barrel, including the science labs and the suits of armour that lined the halls (a visor became the emblem). It was still very much Wilfred Owen's school, and his name was spoken very reverentially. There were elderly teachers in caps and gowns, whose brothers had fought in the war and had even known Owen. It is so eerie to have the sign at the museum as I passed it every morning... usually late. It’s so poignant that it is all that remains of such an iconic school, and we are so grateful to David Armstrong and the WBC for the privilege to display it. David has requested we take very good care of it as its ‘been around a long time’.”
The sign is also believed to be the last to display the title Birkenhead Education Committee.
The Birkenhead Institute sign is on permanent display.
24/09/14: ASTONISHING LETTER REVEALS WILFRED OWEN'S LINKS TO THE WIRRAL
Very little is known of the Great War poet Wilfred Owen's childhood in Birkenhead, often reported as a regrettable chapter in the family's history following their down-turn in fortunes and the loss of their home in rural Shropshire. This is said to have been especially true of his mother Susan, who is often depicted as a cold, domineering, and socially aloof woman. But a newly discovered letter (attached) suggests that the Owens forged strong links with the town and even shaped Wilfred's iconic poetry.
Such was Susan Owen's compassion that they took in the child of a neighbour Magalena Smith in Elm Grove in Tranmere when her mother became ill. In a letter to the child in 1921, Wilfred's mother Susan wrote, “It was Easter Sunday I think, that I carried you away to my home to wean you when you were a few days or a week old.” The family remained so close that they were neighbours again in 1906 at Milton Road.
Academics have always cited Owen's friendship with Siegfried Sassoon as the main influence of his compassionate verse, but evidence shows that it was his mother's deeply Christian beliefs that engaged with Owen when describing the pity of the men in the trenches.
Research has found that the child Susie (front, 3rd from left, in attached pic) who became Susan Owen's godchild (and was named after her), was German: the family name had been changed from Schmid to Smith. This is a staggering revelation in the light of Owen's experiences in the trenches, and such poems as Strange Meeting, which concludes with the line, “I am the enemy you killed, my friend.”
The full letter will feature next month in the musical drama Vilomah, the follow-up to Bullets And Daffodils by Birkenhead musician Dean Johnson. The story is told through the eyes of Susan Owen (featuring the voice of Chloe Torpey). The production is directed by former Brookside actor Dean Sullivan
The show is produced by Mal Robinson, whose grandmother was Susan Owen's godchild. Mal says, “Susan Owen did a lot for my Nan and was loved for it.”
Vilomah (Bullets and Daffodils Part 2) Thursday 9th October 2014 – 7.30 pm St Peter’s Centre, Lower Heswall, Wirral As part of the Heswall Festival Of Arts Tickets £6.00
08/09/14: BIRKENHEAD BRITISH LEGION UNVEILING
HRH Prince Edward was in Birkenhead today to unveil a sculpture dedicated to the fallen of World War One.
The event was held at The Birkenhead British Legion, where the association was founded. The words of Wilfred Owen were read before the unveiling.
Also pictured are Bullets And Daffodils director Dean Sullivan, and sponsor of The Wilfred Owen Story, Alun Hughes.
07/09/14: FORMER WIRRAL MP AT THE WILFRED OWEN STORY
Former Wirral MP Ben Chapman (left) with Dean Johnson at The Wilfred Owen Story discussing the tragic loss of The Ingleborough Road Memorial Field.
10/08/14: WILFRED OWEN ON THE RAILWAY
Commuters arriving at New Brighton train station were surprised on Saturday to hear the words of Wilfred Owen resonating as they alighted their train.
Actor Phil Gwilliam, who portrays Owen in the theatre production Bullets And Daffodils, read many of Wilfred's iconic poems to the delight of many passengers.
Owen would have known the station well on his visits to the seaside as a boy. His father Thomas brought the family to The Wirral after securing a job as station master at Woodside Station (now Hamilton Square).
10/08/14: INTERACTIVE PROMOTION AT THE FLORAL PAVILION
Pictures from our interactive Exhibition at The Floral Pavilion in partnership with The Wirral Autistic Society.
Artwork, sculpture and animated films inspired by Wilfred Owen, and produced by the clients of The Wirral Autistic Society, complemented by The Wilfred Owen Story's history of Owen In Birkenhead.
The display was staged on 9th and 10th August.
06/08/14: RAILWAY STATION REMEMBERS WILFRED OWEN
New Brighton Railway Station will resonate with the war poetry of Wilfred Owen this weekend. To mark the centenary of World War One, St Helens actor Phil Gwilliam (pictured) will read Owen's poetry to the passing commuters at the station that Wilfred himself would have used many times.
Phil Gwilliam portrays the great war poet in the West End production Bullets And Daffodils based on Wilfred's life.
The readings, including Anthem For Doomed Youth, Futility and Dulce Et Decorum Est, will take place between 10 am and 12 noon on Saturday 9th August, and are the first in a series of events taking place at stations around the Merseyside area during the centenary.
This was also covered by The St Helens Star. Click here to read their article.
04/08/14: FRONT LINE AT THE FLORAL
The Floral Pavilion in New Brighton will be the venue for an interactive exhibition presented by The Wilfred Owen Story in partnership with The Wirral Autistic Society.
Entitled Front Line At The Floral, it will comprise of artwork and animated film inspired by Wilfred Owen, produced by clients of the Autistic Society, whilst The Wilfred Owen Story will present a complete history of the war poet and his time in Birkenhead.
Also on display will be a scale model of a Somme trench scene (see previous article below), and related World War I memorabilia. There will be colouring sheets for children, and talks and poetry readings.
The public will also have the chance to meet members of the Bullets And Daffodils production which is taking place at the theatre later this month.
Front Line At The Floral takes place on Saturday 9th & Sunday 10th August between 2 pm and 4 pm. Admission is free.
03/08/14: DAVE GARRY'S SOMME MODEL
We are very proud to unveil a scale model of a World War I Somme battle scene created by Dave Garry – it took many months in the making. Dave, who attended The Birkenhead Institute, has also contributed countless books to The Wilfred Owen Story's extending reference library. The model will be on show permanently.
03/08/14: OUR CONTRIBUTION TO CRAIGLOCKHART'S WAR POETS COLLECTION
This is a plaque from The War Poets Collection based within Craiglockhart – it records our contribution to the collection. We are very proud to be acknowledged at such an important and prestigious exhibition, which also contains original letters and books belonging to Wilfred Owen and Seigried Sassoon, so we are in very esteemed company. Our thanks to Anthony Brown and Alun Hughes for making it possible.
20/05/14: WILFRED OWEN BOOKS DONATED
Birkenhead Institute Old Boy and former deputy head Alan Steedman has recently donated two rare Wilfred Owen Anthologies to The Wilfred Owen Story.
One of them is a special edition published by The Imperial War Museum to commemorate the centenary of Owen's birth in 1993. Only 300 copies were ever produced, and it is a valuable addition to our growing collection.
12/05/14: NOW ON DISPLAY
Now on display at The Wilfred Owen Story: The Poetry Of Marc Harris (as featured in The Countryman magazine).
Click each image for a readable version.
12/04/14: A STITCH IN 'WAR' TIME
We are very proud to display a beautiful embroidered sampler. Dedicated to Wilfred Owen, it was commissioned by our great supporter Ms Lesley Johnson, and was created by Emma Battleday.
It depicts English country flowers to celebrate Wilfred's love of botany. He was inspired as a small boy on a visit to a bluebell wood to compose his first poem. Also featured are his words, ‘a poet must be truthful’ and ‘these soldiers are worth your tears’.
Finally, there is the notation of a line of music from Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem. The line is, ‘Let us sleep now.’ from Owen's Strange Meeting.
03/04/14: WARM WORDS FROM THE WEAVER WORDS FESTIVAL
Many thanks for your wonderful hospitality yesterday.
Everyone on the trip thoroughly enjoyed themselves and found it a very interesting visit.
We really appreciated the warm welcome you gave us and I’m sure you will be seeing some of the visitors again for your performances of Bullets And Daffodils.
I have attached some of the photos I took yesterday – hope you like them.
Thanks again for an excellent visit.
Weaver Words Festival Manager"
02/04/14: FRODSHAM GOES TO BIRKENHEAD
A full house today at The Wilfred Owen Story, as we were visited by The Frodsham Weaver Words Festival.
After a talk and discussion by writer and poet Gladys Mary Coles, a coach travelled to Birkenhead to hear about Wilfred Owen’s life in the town. This included an abridged version of Bullets And Daffodils by Dean Johnson.
We would like to thank everyone that came and enjoyed The Wilfred Owen Story, and for filling the room with such engaging conversation and thoughtful questions.
22/03/14: WORDS FROM THE (FRONT)... PHONELINE!
An initiative to make the works of Birkenhead First World War poet Wilfred Owen available at the touch of a button has been successfully launched.
TheDepartment of Culture Media and Sport and the YMCA contacted the town’s Wilfred Owen Story requesting audio files of Owen’s poems for inclusion in this month’s World Poetry Day.
They have persuaded people from across the country – as well as high-profile figures such as Kate Adie and Mary Beard – to make recordings of WWI poetry.
Individuals were invited to choose poems they admired and make a recording on software that can be downloaded to a smart phone.
It is then uploaded to the official DCMS website.
The Wilfred Owen Story in Argyle Street, Birkenhead, contributed specially-recorded readings of Owen poems by Christopher Timothy, Mark Reed (son of Oliver), and Graeme Clark of pop group Wet Wet Wet.
Dean Johnson, curator, said: “Owen and the other war poets have long been the preserve of the school classroom, and sometimes this can put young people off from appreciating them.
“Young people today interact with everything via their mobile phones, and having access to the poems of The Great War at the touch of a button is a fantastic way of them reaching a new generation.”
Owen, who spent several years of his childhood in Birkenhead, is regarded as one of the greatest voices of the war.
He was killed in November 1918 – shortly before the end of the conflict – during a battle to cross the Sambre Oise Canal at Ors in Northern France.
The latest addition to The Wilfred Owen Story is the Alec Paton Memorial Cabinet.
Alec was Wilfred's best friend during his Birkenhead years. The cabinet contains the best of our Birkenhead Institute memorabilia and very rare pictures of Alec Paton.
Thank you to all the old boys that have kindly donated items.
20/03/14: THE INGLEBOROUGH ROAD FALLEN REMEMBERED - COMMEMORATIVE ANTHOLOGY
This is rather timely and emotional. As The Ingleborough Road Memorial Field's fate seems sealed by the new TRFC Leasowe plans, we received a donation from a Birkenhead Institute old boy yesterday.
It is in the form of 4 bound volumes of books containing the names of 86 of the 88 fallen remembered at Ingleborough Road, but most importantly chronologically lists the dates and battles in which they fell, and also the battalions in which they served, plus photographs of the cemeteries where they rest today.
After 100 years, the people of Birkenhead can refer to these books and discover the selflessness of these brave young men and the debt we owe to their sacrifice. Old boy Mr Les Highton has spent months researching and compiling this index for perpetuity.
We are proud and honoured to display them at the Wilfred Owen Story.
18/03/14: BULLETS BACK AT THE BEGINNING
Bullets And Daffodils is returning to the Central Library in Birkenhead four years after it was premiered there.
The platform performance will take place on Wednesday 9 April at 2.15pm and tickets are priced £3.00.
06/03/14: ACTOR'S PILGRIMMAGE TO WAR POET'S WIRRAL HOME
Actor Christopher Timothy, best known for his role as TV vet James Herriot, made his own personal pilgrimage to the World War One poet Wilfred Owen yesterday.
Christopher is currently in Merseyside appearing at the Liverpool Playhouse in the classic Dial M for Murder, but took time out to visit the former Wirral home of Owen at Elm Grove in Tranmere.
The actor, who also appeared in the popular daytime soap Doctors, was born in Shropshire, which is also the poet’s birthplace, and he has long been fascinated with Wilfred's youth spent in Birkenhead. This led to him narrating Dean Johnson's musical Bullets And Daffodils, based on the poetry of Owen, and he was also consultant director of the sequel Vilomah, which opens tomorrow in Liverpool.
Our attention has been brought to this beautiful watercolour believed to have been painted by Wilfred Owen.
The owner would like more information relating to it. If you can help, please get in touch via this website. Owen was known to paint but his works are very rare. This scene looks like it would be familiar, there seems to be a castle up on the cliffs. Do you recognise this landscape?
13/02/14: FIRST-EDITION POETRY BOOK ON DISPLAY
On show this week at The Wilfred Owen Story - a first edition anthology of Wilfred’s poems.
Donated by Lesley Johnson and signed by actor Robert Newton.
Click on each image below for a larger version.
12/01/14: THE GOLDEN BOOK OF MODERN ENGLISH POETRY
Now on display at The Wilfred Owen Story as part of the WW1 Centenary commemorations is a very rare early copy of The Golden Book of Modern English Poetry.
This was one of Wilfred Owen's first appearances in print. His devoted mother Susan sent the poems Strange Meeting and Anthem For Doomed Youth to the publishers in 1920, and they were accepted and included in the anthology along, with some of the greatest names in English poetry. This was a great achievement as Owen was still largely unknown at the time.
12/01/14: "BY THE TIME YOU READ THESE LINES..."* (FAMILIES' FRONT-LINE MEMORIES)
* Wilfred Owen famously wrote these words to his mother Susan in his last letter to her. We are proud to display more extraordinary tales from ordinary soldiers that served alongside Owen in World War I.
Here are pictures of the first stories contributed to this project.
This revolving exhibition will run the course of the Centenary of World War One (1914-2014), and will be complemented by works from artists and performers.
Initiating this programme is Rebecca Grindley with Drawn From War.
The exhibition is curated by ceramicist Janet Holmes, whose Somme Tiles project will run concurrently.
05/01/14: TALES FROM THE WWI TRENCHES
This is from The Liverpool Echo, 3 January 2014. If you have any stories, you can contact us direct, or visit us at The Wilfred Owen Story. See Home Page for opening times.
Click on picture for a larger, readable image.
04/01/14: THE WORLD AT WAR – WIRRAL'S MEMORIES ENDURE
Graphic stories of how local people – both servicemen and civilians – stood up to the horrors and heartaches of World War 1 will feature in a special exhibition in Wirral.
Archivist Dean Johnson, who is gathering material for the centenary exhibition, said, "These are the memories of ordinary people involved in extra-ordinary situations.
"The stories contributed are extremely detailed and contain some fascinating facts. Every single one of them is important."
The exhibition – to be launched next Tuesday at The Wilfred Own Story in Argyle Street, Birkenhead – will feature more than 50 recollections from elderly people with stories to tell about family involvement in the war.
Said Dean, "Many old folk who don't have access to email want to tell us their stories face to face. We will take their details down and transcribe them ourselves for the exhibition."
Ex-Wallasey paratrooper John Steedman related the story of his father's ill-fated voyage aboard the T J Harrison ship Dramatist, which was sunk by the German raider Moewe in December 1916.
The Dramatist was sailing from San Francisco to Britain with 7,200 tons of citrus fruit and food stuffs when the Moewe – an armed merchant ship – struck.
Mr Steedman, who saw service as a paratrooper in Palestine after World War II, wrote to Dean: "My father (John Sydney Steedman) said the commander of the Moewe was a very stern military Prussian type officer, but very correct in everything, as were the German guards and crew, who treated them as fellow merchant seamen.
"The Moewe sank some more ships but conditions were getting bad on board – too many prisoners and not enough guards or crew to look after them.
"So the commander stopped a Japanese ship, The Hudson Maru (Japan was neutral) on January 16 1917, loaded all the 250 prisoners onto the ship and told the captain to continue his voyage to Pernambuco in South America.
"The Japanese captain complied with this order – after all he was famous, having been stopped and released by the Moewe."
Mr Steedman went on: "All the prisoners were made to sign an agreement that they would not take any further part in the war against Germany – if they did and were caught they would be shot.
"The prisoners were released in South America and sent back to England. My father arrived back in Liverpool with his signed agreement and T.J. Harrison gave him a franchise to supply Harrison ships with supplies when they were in Liverpool."
Mr Steedman senior went back to sea – complete with his signed agreement – and saw out the war without bumping into the Moewe again.
The exhibition will last for four years – the length of The Great War.
A World War One trench will be recreated in Wirral as part of a project exploring the region’s role in the conflict.
Research volunteers at The Wilfred Owen Story in Birkenhead have been commissioned to document the YMCA’s involvement ahead of next year’s centenary anniversary of the start of the Great War.
As part of the project, a replica trench will be created at the back of the current YMCA building in Whetstone Lane.
The group is planning a bid for Heritage Lottery funding for the scheme, which will see a 20ft long, 6ft deep trench dug by volunteers and YMCA clients.
The funding will also support a group of six young people and four adults to travel to Belgium next year to visit war graves at the British cemetery in Ors, including that of Birkenhead-educated war poet Wilfred Owen.
Nigel Hughes, chief executive of YMCA Wirral, said: “We’re putting together a programme of activities next year as part of the 100th anniversary commemorations.
“The trench and Belgium visit are part of the process of educating young people about the horrors these men went through.
“Once it’s built we will be making it as dirty and horrible as the original ones would have been so they can experience what it would have been like to be in that environment.”
Mr Hughes said initial groundwork on the research project had already uncovered a wealth of information documenting the YMCA's role in the war effort.
He said it showed support for the soldiers was “unprecedented” in Wirral, involving the YMCA's own building, then in Grange Road, alongside a number of prefabricated structures across Wirral.
One of the structures funded and built by the organisation was a wooden pavilion to house the Birkenhead ‘Bantams’ regiment.
The regiment was set up after Alfred Bigland, MP for Birkenhead, pressed the War Office in 1914 for permission to form a battalion of men who failed to reach the British Army's normal height requirement of 5ft 3in, but were otherwise perfectly capable of serving.
Dean Johnson, founder of The Wilfred Owen Story, said: “Early research shows how active and important the organisation was in the war effort on the home front, especially the work in assisting the setting up of the bantam regiment in Birkenhead.
“The YMCA acquired land at the Bebington Show ground – now known as The Oval – and built dormitories, canteens and leisure activities.
“They set up many of these camps across the area, all manned by volunteers, and helped keep the soldiers’ morale high.
“Through studying the YMCA minutes books of meetings during the Great War, we are hoping to help build a memorial roll of staff that served and fell in World War One.”
The project will focus on how the war affected the people of Birkenhead and Wirral as a whole, in particular the home front and how the role of women in society changed.
The story of the Cammell Laird shipyard and its role in the design and building of warships for the Navy will also be investigated.
Mr Hughes added: “We had very little information relating to the YMCA's work during The Great War, and what The Wilfred Owen Story have discovered so far is fascinating and very rewarding.”
Pictured left to right: Sean Watson (Youth Worker), Nigel Hughes (CEO, YMCA Wirral), and Peter Cookson (Supported Housing)
18/12/13: DRAWN FROM WAR
Launched this week at The Wilfred Owen Story is a new exhibition entitled Drawn From War, an incredible selection of drawings depicting the horror of war by our resident artist Rebecca Grindley.
14/12/13: THE WILFRED OWEN STORY WANTS WAR STORIES
Birkenhead War Poet Wilfred Owen's last letter home to his mother promised that the War would be “over before you read these lines.” Sadly, this was not the case for Owen, who perished in the last week of World War I.
Now, on the eve of the Centenary of The Great War in 2014, The Wilfred Owen Story is asking the Wirral public to share their memories of family members who fought in the War. Many people have treasured stories or correspondence that has been passed down through the generations.
Dean Johnson, founder of The Wilfred Owen Story, says, “As attention focuses on World War I during the centenary, people will be aware of the sacrifice made within their own families. Maybe the testament of these brave men was handed down personally or in correspondence from the front-line. If people would care to share these memories, we would like to record them and make them the centre of an exhibition that would both commemorate and preserve them as a time capsule for future generations.”
11/12/13: THE WIRRAL GLOBE ANNOUNCE OUR PARTNERSHIP WITH YMCA WIRRAL
Read full article here. If you have any information regarding Wirral during World War I, please contact us.
01/12/13: FATHER ROBERT DIXON VISITS THE WILFRED OWEN STORY
Father Robert Dixon visited The Wilfred Owen Story again this week to present us with more wonderful Wilfred Owen material.
Father Robert, who comes all the way from St Thomas's Church in Leigh, Manchester,also laminated a complete set of Owen's poems (pictured in the background) for visitors to read at their leisure.
We would like to acknowledge the great kindness of Father Robert and the members of his Church for their wonderful generosity in helping keeping to keep the exhibition a more vibrant experience due to their donations.
23/11/13: ARTIST IN RESIDENCE FOR WWI CENTENARY
We are proud to be joined by the brilliant Rebecca Grindley, who will be our Artist In Residence at The Wilfred Owen Story for the duration of the WW1 Centenary.
23/11/13: MEDIA ATTENTION FOR FIGHTERS AND DREAMERS
The Merseyside media were very impressed with the publication of Fighters And Dreamers, and covered it widely. This article is from The Liverpool Echo. Click for a larger view.
Copies of the book will soon be available from The Wilfred Owen Story.
10/11/13: REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY AT THE WILFRED OWEN STORY
The public took advantage of the lovely sunny Remembrance Day weather today to browse around The Wilfred Owen Story.
The museum is just minutes from Birkenhead's cenotaph, so following the commemoration service, over 50 people enjoyed a tour of the exhibition, which is the only permanent one in the UK.
10/11/13: REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY AT INGLEBOROUGH ROAD
Dean Johnson (The Wilfred Owen Story) and fellow Birkenhead Institute Old Boy Alun Hughes pay their respects and lay a tribute on the gates of Ingleborough Road Memorial Fields today - Remembrance Sunday.
The commemoration took the form of a framed copy of Wilfred Owen's Dulce Et Decorum Est.
30/10/13: AUTHENTIC WORLD WAR ONE RELICS ON SHOW AT WILFRED OWEN STORY
Authentic equipment as used by soldiers in World War One is on display at The Wilfred Owen Story. Included in the exhibition is an original entrenching tool that was used to start the long back-breaking process of trench digging. It was also sadly used to dig graves, and then ultimately as a weapon.
A genuine field stretcher is also featured, along with an unused standard issue first aid kit; and a popular exhibit is a carved replica of the iconic Enfield Rifle. Curator Dean Johnson says, “Our permanent exhibition focuses on the words and life of Wilfred Owen, and especially his time spent in Birkenhead, but these artefacts do help to illustrate the brutality of War that Owen was so opposed to.”
Admission to The Wilfred Owen Story is free.
On 30 October, The Wirral Globe published an article about this exhibit. Read it here.
30/09/13: WILFRED OWEN'S BIRKENHEAD STORY AND AMAZING GERMAN CONNECTION TOLD ON TELEVISION
Wilfred Owen's time spent in Birkenhead was the subject of BBC1's Inside Out programme this week. The cameras visited the Owen landmarks in the town and also spent time at the UK's only permanent exhibition The Wilfred Owen Story. The highlight was the discovery that the Owen family had close friends in the town that were German.
The Dean Johnson musical drama based on Wilfred’s poetry Bullets And Daffodils was discussed by much loved actor Christopher Timothy.
The programme is available to watch on the BBC iPlayer for the next 7 days.
30/09/13: WILFRED WAS HERE EVENT
To celebrate being featured on the this week’s BBC Inside Out show, The Wilfred Owen Story will be hosting a special Wilfred Was Here event on Wednesday 9 October at 3 pm.
Founder Dean Johnson will introduce a talk on Owen's history in Birkenhead. The event will also feature excerpts from the West End production of Bullets And Daffodils, and a chance to view Owen family letters, plus a question and answer session.
Tickets cost £5.00 and are very limited please call 07539 371925 or email us for more information.
08/05/13: THE LES HIGHTON MEMORIAL FIELD CABINET
This is The Les Highton Memorial Field Cabinet. It contains the wonderful items donated to the museum from Mr Highton.
These include a complete edition of Wilfred Owen's brother Harold's autobiographical trilogy Journey From Obscurity, a First Edition copy of Siegfried Sassoon’s autobiography, original pressings of Benjamin Britten’sWar Requiem, and the poems of Wilfred Owen read by Richard Burton.
Mr Highton has been a devoted supporter of our exhibition, and he has nominated The Ingleborough Road Memorial Field to be remembered by his gifts.
We are very proud and grateful to name the cabinet after him and also in honour of our other old boys of Birkenhead Institute.
16/03/13: NEW PAINTING OF WILFRED OWEN UNVEILED IN BIRKENHEAD
A striking new painting of Wilfred Owen has been donated to The Wilfred Owen Story in Birkenhead.
The remarkable canvas is the work of Irish artist Samantha Tebbutt, who was inspired to create the piece after learning of the fight to save a Memorial Field dedicated to the Great War Poet, the artwork shows Owen with his young nephew among the branches of the 88 Commemorative Trees at the ground.
The artist says, “It was painted as a reaction to the news of building at Ingleborough Road Memorial Playing Fields.”
Dean Johnson, founder of the Owen exhibition added, “I was very moved by Samantha's gesture, and very proud to display this magnificent tribute to Wilfred.”
The Wirral Globe have covered this too. Click here to read their article.
The painting will hang permanently at the gallery and admission is free to view.
Printed in 1959, this is the first tribute to Wilfred Owen. Edited by J T Walsh, it was printed to commemorate the opening of the Memorial Library at The Birkenhead Institute.
It contains the unique testimonials from Siegfried Sassoon, Edmund Blunden, T.S Eliot, Benjamin Britten and CDay Lewis, along with childhood friends and the poet’s schoolmasters.
This historic booklet is to be reprinted for the centenary of World War I, with a new foreword by Mr Walsh.
It will only be available via The Wilfred Owen Story. Please contact us to obtain a copy.
03/01/13: REPLICA OF WILFRED OWEN WORLD WAR ONE TRENCH ON DISPLAY
An exact replica of a World War I trench has gone on display at The Wilfred Owen Story.
The scale model was created by artist Jim Whelan, and contains every feature that would have been familiar to the Great War poet Wilfred Owen, who spent his childhood in Birkenhead.
The display is the first part of the museum’s countdown to the centenary of World War I next year. Jim Whelan, who is a member of the staff of The Williamson Art Gallery, says, “I wanted the model to be a perfect replica of the conditions that the brave men like Owen lived in every day. It was a terrible way to live and these hellholes were all the men had for cold comfort.”
09/12/12: BULLETS AND DAFFODILS SONG FEATURED ON CD GIFT FOR THE TROOPS
Copies of TTN Records Christmas CD for the troops Hero 2012, have been handed over to Blackpool based UK Forces SupportOrganisation for inclusion in their annual parcels, which will be sent to help give a little Christmas cheer to the British armed forces who will spending the festive period in Afghanistan.
The Hero 2012 CD is a limited edition release which is not available for general sale and features contributions from artists and groups from across the North West and beyond. A track from the Wilfred Owen musical Bullets And Daffodils, entitled Mary's Song, is included on this year’s edition.
This annual album project is unusual in concept as it gives the opportunity to local unsigned artists to appear on the same CD as other, more well-known, performers.
PLEASE NOTE: This is not a fundraising CD as such - TTN Records do not sell these CDs and do not make any money out of this sort of project.
Copies of the CD are given free of charge to Services support organisations, ex-Servicemen’s’ charities, Forces broadcasters, etc., so that they can then be used where they can give the most benefit.
If any other armed forces support group or charity would like free copies of the Hero 2012 to put to good use, please send an email to email@example.com.
18/11/12: WORLD WAR ONE MEMORIAL PLAQUE DONATED BY WIRRAL MUSICIAN
Well-known Wirral musician Al 'Willard' Peters has donated a beautiful World War One memorial plaque to The Wilfred Owen Story.
Al came across the frieze, dedicated to a Welsh soldier William Owen Jones in a second hand shop decades ago. He personally restored the piece, which is made of oak and brass.
It is now on display and will remain so right up to the Centenary of World War One in 2014.
16/11/12: WIRRAL'S FORGOTTEN WAR POET MAY SINCLAIR CELEBRATED
While Wilfred Owen's poetry is studied in schools around the world, people are unaware that another great War poet has connections to the Wirral. May Sinclair was born on 24 August 1863 in Rock Ferry.
May was the youngest child and only daughter of wealthy Liverpool ship-owner William Sinclair. May began writing for a living in 1896 and published novels, short stories and poems from her home in Rock Park. She also introduced 'stream of consciousness' as a literary term.
When World War One broke out, May joined Dr Monro’s Flying Ambulance Corps and went to Belgium in September 1914. May was a very successful writer and today her vivid War poetry is being recognised alongside that of Owen's. She died, suffering from Parkinson's Disease in 1946.
May Sinclair is celebrated along with other female war poets at the Wilfred Owen Story, 34 Argyle Street, Birkenhead from 6 November until 30 November, Tuesday to Friday 11.00am – 2.00pm. Admission is free.
28/10/12: CHRISTOPHER TIMOTHY'S DULCE ET DECORUM EST AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD FOR REMEMBRANCE WEEK
To coincide with Remembrance Week in November, actor Christopher Timothy's remarkable reading of Wilfred Owen's epic Dulce Et Decorum Est is available to download from iTunes, Amazon, and all the well-known digital outlets. There is more than one version of Dulce Et Decorum Est available to download, read by various people. Our one is the one that says it is read by Christopher Timothy in brackets after the title and has Dean Johnson as the artist.
The poem is orchestrated, and Christopher performed it at the Bullets And Daffodils West End Premiere in July.
06/10/12: JEAN EASTWOOD SPEAKS OF WILFRED'S DUNSDEN
Local Dunsden historian Jean Eastwood gave a captivating talk before the performance of Bullets And Daffodils at the Village Hall in Dunsden near Reading.
Jean featured in Jeremy Paxman’s excellent documentary A Remembrance Tale. Jean spoke of Owen’s time at All Saints Church and as a teacher at the Sunday School in the hall where the performance took place.
Pictured along with Jean are the memorial to Wilfred in the church and the gravestone of his parents Susan and Tom, who are buried there. Click on each for a larger view.
The grave of Tom & Susan Owen in the churchyard
Inside the church
Wilfred Owen memorial in the church
01/10/12: WILFRED OWEN DAY OSWESTRY DISPLAY
Preparations for Oswestry’s first Wilfred Owen Day on Tuesday 9 October are taking shape. Here is the display for the event at the town’s library.
Interest in the event is high so please do get there early. The event climaxes with a very special performance of Bullets And Daffodils in the former grounds of Owen’s birthplace Plas Wilmot at Oswestry Cricket Club.
26/09/12: THE MAYOR UNVEILS THE WILFRED OWEN POETRY PLANE
The Wilfred Owen Story were proud to welcome the Mayor and Mayoress Of Wirral this week to unveil our latest exhibit.
The Poetry Plane was produced by the clients of The Wirral Autistic Society in collaboration with the WOS.
The papier-mâché bi-plane features the lines of Wilfred Owen's poem Futility. This wonderful artwork is the first part of a multimedia programme leading to a full exhibition to commemorate the start of World War One in 2014.
25/09/12: X FACTOR'S JAMES MICHAEL ON BOARD FOR HESWALL ARTS FESTIVAL SHOW
Former X Factor contestant James Michael will take on the role of wartime poet Wilfred Owen in Wirral next month.
James, 21, who was mentored by Gary Barlow on the hit show last year, will appear in Bullets And Daffodils when it comes to the borough.
The West End production will be staged at Heswall Hall as part of Heswall Arts Festival on 17 October.
He said: “I met with the play’s writer, Dean Johnson, and discussed the role. He gave me a CD of the show and after listening to it, I was so moved that I knew I had to do it.
“I have wanted to get into theatre for a while so this seemed like the perfect opportunity get started and give it a go.”
19/09/12: HISTORY OF ART STUDENT'S PLACEMENT AT THE WILFRED OWEN STORY
Taken from Liverpool John Moore's University Website:
Linda Brown (pictured), who is a student on Level 5 of the History of Art course at LJMU, has recently completed an unusual internship at The Wilfred Owen Story exhibition in Birkenhead.
The Wilfred Owen Story is billed as the UK's only permanent exhibition and examines and commemorates the life of the important British First World War poet, Wilfred Owen, who was brought up in Birkenhead. Linda began her internship in May and she very soon there met musician, Dean Johnson, who developed the musical Bullets & Daffodils, which is travelling around the UK. Her work involved greeting visitors and answering questions on the topic of Owen and the history of his time in Birkenhead and abroad. She also had to discuss the time that he spent recovering from shell shock at the war hospital at Craiglockhart in Edinburgh.
Linda said, "I enjoyed my time here as I had the opportunity of studying the history of Wilfred Owen and the First World War which I found both very informative and sombre. One of my many tasks was to collect press cuttings and mount them in the files which would be available to visitors. I was responsible for creating displays and for keeping the gallery material in good order, and I enjoyed greeting the visitors, who were visiting in large numbers over the summer break. We had visitors from Canada, Japan and Australia! The bi-plane in the photo was created by clients of Wirral Autistic Society which has an ongoing collaboration with The Wilfred Owen Story. The clients created some really good drawings and digital images."
(See earlier news articles below regarding the work with Wirral Autistic Society)
This is a most interesting example of the work that students can do on their level 5 Internship module.
Read the full blog and see other entries and photographs here.
16/09/12: PLANS FOR WILFRED OWEN'S DAY GATHER STEAM
An event to commemorate Shropshire war poet Wilfred Owen will take place in the autumn. Organisers of the new initiative claim a resurgence of interest in the poet could create a new tourism industry.
The ‘prototype’ Wilfred Owen Day will be held in Oswestry on 9 October, and will culminate in a performance of Bullets & Daffodils, a musical drama about the poet’s life which recently played in the West End.
Organiser Dean Johnson said, “The idea of a Wilfred Owen Day has been around for some time locally and is now gathering steam as the 2014 Great War Centenary approaches.
“It will be a key element in the town’s tourism efforts in two or three years’ time but we can’t wait for that. We think it’s time to get moving.
“This will be the start of a new tourism industry. The Olympics have shown people that this is a good time to celebrate our heritage.”
There will be some corresponding events held in The Wirral, news of these will be posted soon.
Click here to read the full article about this in The Shropshire Star.
26/08/12: COUNCIL SNUBS CONSERVATIONISTS AT POET'S BIRTHPLACE
A controversial housing development at Wilfred Owen's birthplace in Oswestry has been given the go-ahead despite the site being under consideration for listing by English Heritage. Both Wilfred Owen Watch and Oswestry and District Civic Society had requested Shropshire Council to delay the final decision until it is known whether house and curtillage are to be listed by the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics Media and Sport.
Dean Johnson of Wilfred Owen Watch said, “This is the most important Wilfred Owen-linked heritage site of all. It is the 'jewel in the crown' and its importance to Oswestry and Shropshire as a tourist attraction is not yet properly recognised. In France they have spent 13 million euros on a Wilfred Owen shrine. Why are we in such a hurry to build a housing estate in the garden where the poet spent his formative years?" He points out that the 2014 centenary of the Great War is only two years away and that Wilfred Owen is then likely to become a major focus of media attention.
In March the Northern Planning Committee of Shropshire Council took the decision to approve the application. Final approval was delayed while the applicant completed legal formalities connected to the provision of affordable housing.
Local Historian Dr Nigel Tinsley has discovered that this is actually the second time that planning permission has been granted for the site. In the mid-1950s consent was given for three detached houses in the orchard and vegetable garden. That permission lapsed after the applicant Arthur Phillips and his wife sold Plas Wilmot to local auctioneer Frank Ikin and moved to Wilmot Drive. Ethel Phillips had been friendly with Wilfred's mother, Susan Owen, in the 1930s and it may have been some scruples on that account which saved the grounds on that occasion.
Source: Wilfred Owen Watch - The Poetry In Your Heritage
25/08/12: WILFRED OWEN: HOME ON LEAVE EVENT
There was a great turn out for our Wilfred Owen: Home On Leave event today in Meols. Award winning poet and author Gladys Mary Coles led a creative writing session.
Wilfred Owen had close family in Meols and would often return to the coast to reflect. A highlight of the afternoon was being asked inside Dorfold, the house itself were Wilfred used to stay.
The poems written and inspired by today's event will be featured on our website over the next few weeks.
Gladys Mary Coles’ new book entitled Clay is out now.
22/08/12: THE WIRRAL AUTISTIC SOCIETY AND THE WILFRED OWEN STORY ANNOUNCE CREATIVE COMMEMORATIVE PARTNERSHIP
Wirral Autistic Society and The Wilfred Owen Story are both inspired and excited to be working together on this project celebrating the work of Wilfred Owen
Using Wilfred's poem Futility as inspiration, clients from Wirral Autistic Society have started a number of creative projects, incorporating Creative Arts, IT, Media, Music and Performing Arts.
Across these disciplines clients are creating work based on the poem Futility. One of the first works completed on this collaborative project is the plane you see here today.
This craft was designed and created by clients of all abilities attending Community and Vocational Services.
Along with the visual interpretations of this poem this an introduction to a year-long project.
Clients over the next year will be using the poem to create a variety of work. We look forward to a great year of collaboration and creative imagination.
Clients within Wirral Autistic Society were given the poem Futility (or had it read to them). They were then encouraged to interpret this in any way they wished, using computers, ceramics, art and any other creative process.
Clients were not given any indication as to what the poem was about or the conflict that was its inspiration. All the work you see is from the clients’ own interpretation.
This wonderful biplane decorated with Owen-related images, entitled The Poetry Plane, is now on display at The Wilfred Owen Story.
Click on each image both above and below to see a full-sized version. The three pictures in the bottom row below all courtesy of Wirral Autistic Society.
21/08/12: WILFRED OWEN CAMPAIGNERS BID TO SAVE BIRTHPLACE
15/08/12: NEW WINDOW DISPLAY AT THE WILFRED OWEN STORY
This powerful and slightly disturbing image is what greets visitors to The Wilfred Owen Story following a change of window display.
A very kind gentleman who attended the London premiere of Bullets And Daffodils donated this genuine World War I gas mask. It was used by his father many times at the front-line, and was of course a popular image in Wilfred Owen’s work.
15/08/12: PHOTO CALL FOR WOW AT POET'S BIRTHPLACE
The Shropshire press were out in force today for a photo call publicising the plans to build houses on Plas Wilmot, the birthplace of Wilfred Owen.
Founder members of Wilfred Owen Watch (WOW)Dean Johnson and Dr Nigel Tinsley are pictured here at the entrance to the great house in Oswestry built by Owen's grandfather. Both have joined together to try and fight off the threats to all Wilfred Owen landmarks, believing that when the Centenary of WW1 arrives in 2014, all these places will reap the windfall of the Owen connection.
Their slogan of 'The profit is in the property' is already being adopted by the Shropshire Council.
The sell out West End production Bullets And Daffodils will be staged in the grounds of Plas Wilmot on 9 October – a day that is being christened Wilfred Owen Day in Oswestry.
06/08/12: HOME ON LEAVE: WILFRED OWEN’S WIRRAL — 25 AUGUST - 1PM
The Meols coast inspired Wilfred Owen’s poetry and he loved to visit whilst on leave and stay at his aunt’s house.
You can retrace the great war poet's steps along the beautiful Wirral coast and find the same inspiration that Wilfred did. Perhaps write your own poetry based on the scenery.
Pictured is the original fireplace and garden of Owen's aunt's home.
Location of the event is Meols Promenade. Pre-booking is essential - call 07539 371925.
05/08/12: RARE RECORDINGS OF RICHARD BURTON READING WILFRED OWEN POEMS TO BE HEARD AT MUSEUM
An extremely rare recording of the great actor Richard Burton reading Wilfred Owen poems has been donated to The Wilfred Owen Story. The LP, entitled The Days Of Wilfred Owen, was discovered in America by an old boy of TheBirkenhead Institute. The recording dates from the early 1960s and shows how highly esteemed the Birkenhead educated war poet was, as Burton was the biggest star in the world then.
The actor’s delivery of Owen's lines has been described as the greatest in history, and is a very powerful and historical recording.
There will be a full playing of The Days Of Wilfred Owen on Friday 17 August at 12 noon at The Wilfred Owen Story.
01/08/12: COMING SOON - THE KING ORRY III STORY & EXHIBITION
Held at Fort Perch Rock, the exhibition will tell the story of the King Orry. Wilfred Owen sailed on her for his tragic final tour of duty at the end of 1918.
We will also be showing the animated film The Voyages of King Orry, which is suitable for young children.
Date: 19 August 2012 - 12 noon-4pm.
An entrance fee to the Fort is payable but the exhibition is free.
01/08/12: 'MY PET POEM' COMPETITION
During World War One, many animals shared the dangers of the trenches being battalion mascots or pets: mules, goats, foxes, rabbits, dogs, cats, squirrels, magpies amongst them. One dog, Sammy, was three times buried by shellfire and rescued, and at least one soldier wrote a poem to his own dog Bingo.
In tribute to all these much loved but now long forgotten animals, The Wilfred Owen Story is inviting today's children to write a poem about their own pets (or an imaginary pet that you would like to own).
All entries will be displayed alongside the 1917 poem which has inspired this My Pet competition. There will be prizes for different age groups.
Closing date is Friday 31 August, and your entry (with name, address and age written on the back) should be sent to The Wilfred Owen Story, 34 Argyle Street, Birkenhead, CH41 6AE.
Click on the poster above for a full-sized view.
28/07/12: NEW FILM CELEBRATES OWEN'S BIRTHPLACE AND LINKS TO BIRKENHEAD
Developments continue to forge a Wilfred Owen tourism partnership with Oswestry. Owen was born in the Shropshire town but moved to Birkenhead when he was seven, and was educated at the Birkenhead Institute,
The Wilfred Owen Story and Oswestry Central Library are inaugurating Wilfred Owen Day on 9 October this year. There will be poetry workshops and other activities at the library, and in the evening a performance of Bullets And Daffodils in the grounds of Plas Wilmot, birthplace of Owen.
A film was made by Shrewsbury historian and writer Nigel Tinsley of Dean Johnson's visit to Oswestry’s Owen landmarks earlier this month. The film entitled The Birth Place - The Wilfred Owen Pilgrimage, can be seen below, and is the first in a series that will cover key points of the poet’s life.
26/07/12: SOLDIER'S DREAM CD RELEASED FOR MEMORIAL CAMPAIGN
A CD of Wilfred Owen’s poems read by Dean Johnson entitled A Soldier’s Dream, is available free at The Wilfred Owen Story.
The disc contains seven poems recorded for Armed Forces Day by BBC Radio Shropshire.
The CD is released to publicise the threatened Ingleborough Road Memorial Playing Fields, and is available on a first come first served basis from The Wilfred Owen Story for a limited period only.
24/07/12: BULLETS AND DAFFODILS IS A WEST END SELL-OUT!
News of the sell-out performance of Bullets And Daffodils this weekend has been reported by The Wirral Globe. You can read the full article here.
The local free newspaper has been supportive since day one of this project. Craig Manning, the senior reporter at the paper, covered the development of the project before it was even completed.
We would like to thank all the Wirral venues and organisations that have helped along the way, especially The Globe and Wirral News, Birkenhead Library and Christ Church.
Sunday’s performance is being filmed by ITV for a forthcoming documentary, and the stage production is by Illy Hill.
18/07/12: THE OSWESTRY CONNECTION!
Work continues on forging a cultural tourism link between Birkenhead and WilfredOwen's birthplace in Oswestry.
Dean Johnson, founder of The Wilfred Owen Museum in Argyle Street, Birkenhead, unveiled a display of information promoting the exhibition in Oswestry's Central Library.
Dean met with local press and historian Dr Nigel Tinsley (pictured on the left shaking hands with Dean) to announce that 9 October 2012 will be Wilfred Owen Day, with various workshops at the library and a performance of the musical drama about the war poet, Bullets And Daffodils in the grounds of Plas Wilmot, the house were Wilfred was born (see picture of the builder’s notebook of materials used for the building of the house).
12/07/12: WAR MEMORIAL UNDER THREAT
Plans to build houses on the Ingleborough Road Memorial Field have been resubmitted.
88 fallen old boys from Birkenhead Institute including Wilfred Owen are remembered there, and we at The Wilfred Owen Story vehemently oppose this desecration of a war memorial.
We are meeting with local councillors and are in communication with the national media to help bring this appalling action to the public eye.
Tonight we issued a questionnaire to local residents that will show that the original consultation does not concur with the views on the doorsteps.
Read more in the Wirral News article, published on 11 July, here.
To register an objection, go to the Wirral Borough Council Planning Pages on their website, references as follows:-
Ingleborough Road Planning Application Number: OUT/12/00824 Woodchurch Leisure And Community Centre Planning Application Number: APP/12/00825
Due to the persistent rain this summer, a leak has found its way through the ceiling of The Wilfred Owen Story and has threatened to damage the Exhibition.
The Museum will be closed for this week while the Methodist Housing bring in experts to repair the leak and dry the damaged interior.
Please call 07539 371925 if you have any urgent information concerning Wilfred Owen or wish to donate material.
We appreciate your patience in this matter.
04/07/12: PRENTON COUNCILLOR CASTS DOUBTS ON TRFC HOUSING CONSULTATION PLANS
Prenton councillor Paul Doughty said he and other representatives want to do “what the residents of Prenton want” – but he said opinion was sharply divided and issues other than the memorial could tip the balance either way.
He said: “There was a survey carried out by residents which showed overall a majority were in support of the scheme, but in conversations with people on the doorstep they say they are not happy with it.”
Cllr Doughty said even if planning permission was given it did not mean the site would immediately be sold for development given the current economic climate.
He also said he was not convinced by the proposal to link the Ingleborough and Woodchurch developments in the previous planning application.
02/07/12: PLANS FOR TOURISM DRIVE TO ESTABLISH OWEN'S BIRKENHEAD ROOTS
Dean Johnson travelled to Shropshire last month to help launch a Wilfred Owen Tourist Trail.
The poet’s birthplace in Oswestry and his homes in Birkenhead and Shrewsbury will form a package aimed at tourists from all over the UK, Europe, USA and Japan.
Wilfred's time in Birkenhead was the longest period of time he ever spent in one place. As a former pupil of The Birkenhead Institute, he is remembered at The Ingleborough Road Memorial Playing Fields, where he is symbolically represented by a poplar tree.
26/06/12: CAMERAS SET TO ROLL FOR WILFRED'S CHRIST CHURCH REMEMBERED EVENT
The Christ Church Remembered event on Saturday 14 July is to be filmed by Coronation Street director Gordon 'Illy' Hill. The event was conceived by Dean Johnson and organist Paul Broadhurst, and is a celebration of Wilfred Owen's time at the Birkenhead Church.
Illy said of the project, “Dean invited me to the run-through and I was overwhelmed by the power of the piece. Christopher is a gripping narrator, and the grandeur of this stately church makes for a sensational setting. There is no real staging to do... it’s all here. You can feel the history of the place and a sense that Owen has left something tangible here.
“My time with Mersey TV has taught me to go with my gut feeling, and this event will be a remarkable documentary that I will have no shortage of takers for.”
Illy and Dean survey the church interior from the balcony
Beautiful stained-glass window inside the church
24/06/12: BULLETS AT DUNSDEN!
Bullets And Daffodils is sensationally visiting Eye & Dunsden Village Hall as part of the Wilfred Was Here tour on 3 October.
Wilfred Owen famously worked in Dunsden as a clergyman's assistant. It was his first job after leaving college, and he taught children in the actual hall where the musical will be performed.
We would like to thank the Parish Council for their support and kindness for making this historic event happen.
24/06/12: OSWESTRY PILGRIMMAGE CREATES MEDIA CIRCUS!
Founder of The Wilfred Owen Story,Dean Johnson travelled to Oswestry this week for a meeting with historian Dr Nigel Tinsley.
The purpose of the visit was to inaugurate a Wilfred Owen-based tourist trail, taking in the key landmarks both in Shropshire and Birkenhead.
The visit soon turned into a mini media circus, with local press and radio eager to capture the occasion for the public. The influential Oswestry website OS21 caught up with Dean during the launch (you can also listen to Dean's interview there too).
Image courtesy of the OS21 website.
22/06/12: CHRIST CHURCH REMEMBERED — AN HISTORIC EVENT
Last night saw the first rehearsal of the Wilfred Owen-Christchurch Remembered event at Christ Church, Oxton. The celebration in words and music of Owen's time spent at the Church has been created by Dean Johnson and organist Paul Broadhurst.
Taking place on Saturday 14 July, the event will be recorded for a CD and DVD to be released in aid of Charity.
Click on each image below to see it full-sized (each one will open in a new window or tab).
Organist Paul Broadhurst
Dean Johnson with Paul Broadhurst
Close-up detail of the elaborately carved pulpit
22/06/12: ARMED FORCES COVENANT
Wirral Borough Council this week added their names to a National Armed Forces Covenant to uphold their support for all past and present servicemen that have fought for the country.
The Wilfred Owen Story will do their best to ensure that this commendable pledge is upheld in all aspects of local commemoration.
21/06/12: BIRTHPLACE VENUE FOR WILFRED OWEN MUSICAL
Dean Johnson will bring his musical Bullets & Daffodils to Oswestry Cricket Club on Tuesday 9 October.
"This will be a very special show for me," says Dean, “This venue is very close to the house where Wilfred Owen was born and would have been within the grounds of the Plas Wilmot Estate at the time of Wilfred's birth nearly 120 years ago.”
Dean's show premieres in London's West End next month where it will star Christopher 'TV Vet' Timothy and Graeme Clark of Wet Wet Wet. It tells the story of poet Wilfred Owen's life.
The Oswestry booking was the result of a chance meeting between Dean and Nick Davies, Clubhouse Manager at OCC during Dean's much publicised visit to Oswestry on 20 June. Dean was following what he calls his 'Wilfred Owen Pilgrimage Trail’. After beginning the day with an interview on Radio Shropshire, Dean motored to Oswestry from his Wirral base, where he runs Birkenhead's Wilfred Owen Story museum. On his arrival Dean gave further interviews to the media including a recital of no less than seven of Wilfred Owen's poems for the BBC.
Dean discussed the potential for Wilfred Owen-themed tourism in Oswestry with local historian Dr Nigel Tinsley. He expressed the hope that the current status of Plas Wilmot (“Undoubtedly the jewel in the crown of Wilfred Owen-themed tourism”) can be resolved in a way which allows it to be visited by enthusiasts.
Dean's commitments to the Theatre, Birkenhead and other current projects, do not allow him to take an active part in running or campaigning for Shropshire's own Heritage Assets.
“I was actually offered the place as a museum a couple of years back.” he revealed.
Dean speculated that the value of The Birthplace as a Heritage Asset would ultimately exceed its value as a building site.
A very special event will be take place on Saturday 14 July. Entitled Wilfred Owen — Christ Church Remembered, it will be a celebration in words and music of Owen’s time spent at the iconic Birkenhead Church.
Wilfred attended Sunday School at Christ Church and later became a member of the choir. The whole Owen family worshipped there, and his father Tom was also a church warden.
The event, which starts at 7.30pm, will feature music that was contemporary to Owen’s time at the church, including some not heard for over 100 years. Resident organist Paul Broadhurst will be joined by members of the cast of Bullets And Daffodils, who will read some of the poet’s best known works.
21/04/12: MERSEYSIDE LEGEND JOHN GORMAN TO STAR IN WILFRED OWEN LIVERPOOL PREMIERE
John Gorman, the Birkenhead-born poet, writer and performer, will be the star guest at the premiere Liverpool performance of Bullets And Daffodils, taking place in The Casa, Hope Street, on Wednesday 2 May.
The area is Gorman's old stomping ground, where he was a scene-maker in the 1960s. John was a larger-than-life figure, and would instigate many of the 'happenings' of the Liverpool scene at the legendary Everyman Bistro, with his collaborators Roger McGough, Brian Patten and Adrian Henri.
He found international stardom with the satirist pop group Scaffold, formed with Beatle brother Mike McCartney, and had a string of Top Ten hits. Gorman then became the lynchpin of the madcap and anarchic Saturday morning children’s’ show Tiswas, famous for its custard pies and buckets of water throwing.
For the Casa show, John will read from Siegfried Sassoon's manuscripts and deliver Wilfred Owen's best known poem Dulce Et Decorum Est.
This performance of Bullets And Daffodils is part of The Writing On The WallFestival (http://www.writingonthewall.org.uk). Tickets available from The Unity Theatre Box Office, 1 Hope Place, Liverpool, or ring 0844 873 2888.
20/04/12: GRAEME CLARK'S ROLE IN BULLETS & DAFFODILS MAKES THE NEWS!
A massive half page spread greeted Wet Wet Wet fans in today’s Glasgow Evening Times. The feature broke the news of Graeme Clark’s forthcoming role in the Wilfred Owen musical drama.
Graeme will star in the West End version of the show in July, and a Glasgow performance will be announced very soon, so keep checking the website.
Click on the image to see the article as it appeared in today's paper (opens in new window or tab), or alternatively click here to read it on the paper's website (also opens in new window/tab). You will need to register, but this is completely free and only takes about a minute.
19/04/12: WIRRAL AUTISTIC CENTRE
The Wilfred Owen Story, in association with The Wirral Centre For Autism, are about to announce a major exhibition in tribute to Wilfred Owen’s poem Futility.
The image to the left shows Dean Johnson with Geoff Owen (from the Wirral Autistic Centre) outside the building. The image to the right shows users of the Centre hard at work on an artistic project. Click on each for a larger version (opens in new window or tab).
17/04/12: WET WET WET STAR RECORDS SONG IN HONOUR OF GRANDFATHER WHO FOUGHT IN THE GREAT WAR
Wet Wet Wet superstar Graeme Clark has recorded a haunting version of the beautiful traditional folk song Danny Boy for the Bullets And Daffodils soundtrack. The song has a strong personal connection for Graeme, who has long held a passion for Wilfred Owen's poetry,
Says Graeme, “For me what's interesting is that my Grandfather signed up in the army when he was 16 (1916) as a musician. So he would've seen a bit of the war Wilfred's written about.
“It makes perfect sense for me to play and emulate my grandfather as it was from him I got my musical heritage. I only hope I can do the play and my Grandpa justice.”
Graeme will perform his unique version of Danny Boy in London's West End premiere of Bullets And Daffodils in July, and it will feature on the cast album released soon.
16/04/12: WILFRED WOWS WIGAN!
Another town has fallen under the spell of Bullets And Daffodils.
Wigan’s Words Together Festival proved an amazing platform for a performance that featured only Chloe Torpey, Dean Johnson and Phil Gwilliam.
Wonderful acoustics and an attentive capacity audience produced a magical evening that highlighted what a superb actress Miss Torpey is becoming, and the solid support of Phil Gwilliam as Wilfred Owen.
The images below are all from tonight's production. Click for a larger view (opens in new window/tab).
Chloe Torpey in a dramatic pose
Dean Johnson & Chloe
15/04/12: MUCH APPRECIATION FOR BULLETS & DAFFODILS AT CAROL ANN DUFFY'S MUCH WENLOCK FESTIVAL
An abridged version of Bullets And Daffodils delighted the audience at the Much Wenlock Poetry Festival organised by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy.
Chloe Torpey's performance held the Priory venue spellbound, whilst Charlotte Roberts’Body Poetry won gasps of horror.
One festival organiser commented, “This production brings Owen’s poetry to life.”
Co-writer John Gorman was on hand for the performance and congratulated the cast on their stunning success.
11/04/12: OWENMANIA HITS LOCAL MEDIA!
Wirral's local paper is carrying news of the big-name addition to the cast Of Bullets And Daffodils.
The big news is that Wet Wet Wet megastar Graeme Clark will join the cast for its London West End premiere in July.
The show’s writer Dean Johnson says, “We have more very special guests lined up for the show this year. I’m very excited that Danny will be joining Chloe Torpey and the cast at our first performance in Liverpool for the brilliant Writing On The Wall Festival on 2 May.”
Click on the image to see the Wirral News article on their website.
Tickets are now on sale for the Liverpool debut of Bullets And Daffodils, as part of The Writing On The Wall Festival's 'War Tour' night at The Casa, Hope Street, on 2 May.
This performance will feature veryspecial guests alongside the majestic Chloe Torpey as Susan Owen, and we are proud to be involved in this magnificent festival.
Click the logo above to see the Festival website for more information (opens in new window/tab).
24/03/12: BULLETS & DAFFODILS AT THE MUSEUM OF LIVERPOOL
Hundreds of people flocked to The Museum Of Liverpool today to see a bite-size version of Bullets And Daffodils. The spring sunshine brought visitors from all over the North West to the area's premier cultural attraction.
Wilfred Owen is not featured officially at the celebration of Liverpool life, so the performance went some way to marking Owen’s significance to the area.
The mini-musical was part of a week of World War I events and featured leading lady Chloe Torpey and the stunning singer Charlie Griffiths who received rapturous applause several times.
The cast, led by writer Dean Johnson, were joined in the finale of I Will Fight For You by Jay P McWinen and The Mersey Voices Choir.
The event was produced by Janet Holmes.
The pictures below are all from today's event. Click on each one for a larger version (opens in new window/tab).
Charlie Griffiths, Chloe Torpey & Dean Johnson backed by The Mersey Voices Choir
Charlie & Chloe with a 'ghost' from World War One
Charlie & Chloe with Dean Johnson
24/03/12: WALL HANGING COMMEMORATES FALLEN AT THE WILFRED OWEN STORY
Artist Jim Whelan's majestic wall hanging is on display in the window of The Wilfred Owen Story.
Pictured here (click for a larger view) with Chloe Torpey and Charlie Griffiths from the cast of Bullets And Daffodils, the huge paint on calico mural, entitled The Fallen, is also displayed at each performance of the Wilfred Owen musical drama.
24/03/12: TITANIC POEMS' GIANT COMPETITION AT THE WILFRED OWEN STORY
The Wilfred Owen Story, in conjunction with Visit Wirral, are holding a poetry competition as part of the 100th Anniversary of the Titanic maiden voyage/sinking events taking place all over the Wirral, which has many Titanic connections.
The winning entry will be read out at the Wilfred Owen Story on 10 April, so entries need to come in before then. Send your entries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click the image to the left to see this event and about all the others on Visit Wirral's own pamphlet (opens as a PDF in a new tab or window).
13/03/12: THE WILFRED OWEN STORY TOLD AT THE MUSEUM OF LIVERPOOL ON 24 MARCH
There will be highlights from Bullets And Daffodils performed at The Museum Of Liverpool on Saturday afternoon 24 March.
The cast, featuring Chloe Torpey as Susan Owen, Dean Johnson and special guest Jay P McWinen as Wilfred Owen, will be joined by the 40 piece Mersey Voices Choir for a finale of I Would Fight For You. It promises to be a spectacular day!
04/03/12: PRODUCTION ASSISTANT WANTED (WIRRAL BASED)
We are looking for someone with an interest in Musical Theatre to help with the day-to-day running of our high-profile professional production Bullets And Daffodils. Experience is not necessary but enthusiasm and energy are a plus.
Are you confident enough to work in a room full of egomaniacs? If you want to be a part of the rollercoaster ride of showbusiness, then please get in touch.
Call Dean on 07539 371925 for more details.
03/03/12: RAVE REVIEW IN THE DAILY MIRROR!
Jay P McWinen's recording of Conscious from Bullets & Daffodils, got a 4-star review in yesterday's (2 March) edition of The Daily Mirror.
The review appeared in the paper's The Ticket section, which comes out every Friday.
Click on the image to the left to see a readable scan taken from the paper (opens in a new window or tab).
01/03/12: WILFRED OWEN'S DISPLAY OF FRIENDSHIP MAKES THE NEWS
The Liverpool Daily Post has published a nice article abour our exhibition today. Click here to read it (opens in new window/tab).
Click on the image of the poster to the left to see more details about the exhibition.
21/02/12: BACKDROP WORK IN PROGRESS
Artist Jim Whelan’s backdrop for the forthcoming Bullets And Daffodils tour nears completion. It will be unveiled and on show at The Wilfred Owen Story before it is used on the tour.
The pictures below show various views of this piece of work. Click on each for a larger view (opens in new window/tab).
13/02/12: BULLETS & DAFFODILS COMES TO THE WEST END!
Wet Wet Wet's Graeme Clark will be one of the stars of a special West End production of Bullets And Daffodils.
The world’s first Wilfred Owen musical will be staged at London's Fringe Theatre of the Year 2012, The Jermyn Street Theatre on Sunday 29 July.
More details of special guests and tickets will be announced soon.
The poignant and historic new exhibition Alec Paton — Wilfred Owen's Forgotten Friend, attracted over 100 people to The Wilfred Owen Story today.
A world first, the display contains the first pictures of Wilfred's school friend from his days at The Birkenhead Institute.
Mrs Field of Higher Tranmere, said, “It’s so moving to look into the face of a young man that was so close to Owen. It is a unique part of Birkenhead’s heritage, and it’s marvellous that it’s being preserved in this wonderful museum.”
The Wilfred Owen Story relaunches this month with a truly unique and historic exhibition.
Wilfred Owen's Forgotten Friend tells the story of Alec Paton. Owen was said to have only one close friend during his time in Birkenhead.
As pupils of The Birkenhead Institute, the boys’ studious nature drew them together and they shared most of the top accolades in their class. Inseparable during holidays, they rode horses on New Brighton Beach and swam at The Argyle Street Baths.
Wilfred spent so much time at the Paton household, it was even suggested that he remain with the family when his own parents returned to Shropshire.
When as young men they both became soldiers, fate saw Paton live through it, whilst his best friend perished in the last week of the war and became the greatest war poet of all time. Alec, who bore a striking resemblance to poet Siegfried Sassoon, became a teacher on the South Coast. He was said to be reluctant to discuss his boyhood companion, but upon his death at the age of 97, he was buried with an anthology of Wilfred's poems.
The exhibition features the world’s first ever pictures of Alec Paton to be seen since Owen's posthumous worldwide fame. His own testimony and that of those who knew him tell the quiet tale of a gentleman who lived his life in the reflective glow of his genius school pal.
The picture shows Alec Paton as an old man on an emotional visit to Birkenhead Central Library. He is reading an Owen poem whilst a painting of Wilfred hangs poignantly on the wall behind him.
The Exhibition ispermanent and admission costs £1.00
19/01/12: NORTH WEST BULLETS & DAFFODILS TOUR TICKETS NOW ON SALE
We are proud to announce the first tour of Bullets And Daffodils.
Tickets for the Northwest dates are now on sale. They are intimate venues so tickets are limited. The full cast will be announced shortly.
The score features a David Gilmour recording that was licenced with the permission of the Pink Floyd legend himself.
Check out the Bullets & Daffodils page for full up-to-date news on the tour. Please note not all venues have the show on their website yet but keep checking back.
The image to the left is the official tour poster. Click it for a larger view.
15/01/12: CONSCIOUS BY J P MCWINEN
Released next month is Conscious. In some ways this is war poet Wilfred Owen's first single taken from the forthcoming musical Bullets And Daffodils, The Wilfred Owen Story. Owen's poem describing the confusion of a shell-shocked soldier is set sympathetically to music and sung in a contemporary style by Jay P McWinen.
08/01/12: JIM WHELAN'S WORKS IN PROGRESS
Wirral artist and sculptor Jim Whelan has been commissioned to produce the stage set for the forthcoming tour of Bullets And Daffodils.
Pictured are the works in progress resulting in the incredible colour image that will form the backdrop.