The 4th November this year marked the 99th anniversary of the day that Shropshire poet and soldier, Wilfred Owen, fell in battle in 1918, the last year of the First World War.

The centenary next year will be marked in his home county of Shropshire by a series of events over the last 100 days from 4th August to the anniversary of the Armistice on 11th November.

Over the last three years Shropshire communities have been working in partnership to deliver an extensive and ambitious programme of heritage and arts activities to commemorate the centenary of the First World War, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council, England.

This programme will conclude in a large-scale commemoration in 2018 of the 100th anniversary of Wilfred Owen’s death at the age of 25 on 4th November 1918, just seven days before the Armistice.

With a focus on Shrewsbury and Oswestry, Shropshire’s Wilfred Owen 100 will remember him with poetry readings, music, talks, new installations such as a mural at Shrewsbury station, themed guided walks and much more. Events will reflect on the emotion, exhibitions, installations and projects from the 2014 – 2018 commemorative period and celebrate one of Shropshire’s most renowned sons.

Shrewsbury Heritage, Shropshire Archives and Shropshire Arts Service will coordinate a county wide partnership. A free programme of cultural arts activities and events around will be published in May 2018.

Lezley Picton, Shropshire Council Cabinet member for leisure and culture, said:

“Shropshire played a key role in the WW1 effort, with support provided at home and the supply of brave soldiers to the frontline, such as the famous Wilfred Owen.

 “With the anniversary of his untimely death, I am delighted that Shropshire Archives and Shropshire Council’s Arts Service are working with partners at Shrewsbury Heritage to ensure that Wilfred Owen and his works are celebrated and remembered through a series of interesting and exciting events, while also paying homage to our county’s significant contributions during the Great War.”

Wilfred Owen was born in 1893 at Plas Wilmot near Oswestry and lived in Birkenhead and Shrewsbury, where his mother received news of his death as the bells were ringing out on Armistice Day. He served as a Lieutenant in the 2nd Manchester Regiment, winning the Military Cross for bravery in action. His poetry is now widely regarded as among the best to be inspired by the horrors of the Great War.

Encouraged to write, in part, by fellow soldier Siegfried Sassoon, during a period of recuperation from shellshock in Scotland, Owen would not live to see his poetry receive its present wider recognition. The first volume of collected poems was published in 1920, and in the 1960s Benjamin Britten controversially included several of the poems in his War Requiem. Today two volumes of his hand-written verse are to be found in the vaults of the British Library alongside the greatest writers in the English language such as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Lennon & McCartney.

The life and contribution of Wilfred Owen, and all the other men and women of Shropshire who were swept up into the services during the conflict, will be a key element in the programme, but the wider social impact of the war on all the inhabitants of Shropshire will also be of great importance.

In the First World War Shropshire played a key role as a location for large scale training and prisoner of war camps, as well as providing over 40 hospitals, often located in country houses like Stokesay Court. A large number of women volunteered to work in hospitals and also on the land, including those who were part of the Women’s Land Army. The project will also harness archives, artefacts and memories held out in the community by organisations and individuals, and secure their preservation and accessibility for the future. The ambitious aim of this partnership project is to involve every community in this large county and to reach audiences of all ages.

Links

Shropshire Remembers website – www.shropshireremembers.org.uk

Twitter – @WilfredOwen100

Facebook – www.facebook.com/WilfredOwen100Shropshire/

Press contacts

Shropshire Archives at Shropshire Council – Adam Spreckley – email: adam.spreckley@shropshire.gov.uk | Tel: 07876887142

Shrewsbury Heritage – Tim King – email: timothy.king@yahoo.com | Tel: 01939 211015