Poppies spring up around Birkenhead for Wilfred Owen Commemoration

Wirral Globe - 02 Nov 2018
MANY of you reading may have seen the first blooms of poppies springing up around Birkenhead and the wider Merseyside area in time for the hundredth anniversary of the Armistice.

The trees lining Borough Road in Prenton are now wrapped in red, and poppies are appearing in the windows of our high street shops.

Many of these poppies are being displayed as part of the Wilfred Owen Commemoration, which our area has been planning for months. From 1-10 November we will be remembering Owen, arguably the greatest poet of the last century, and all those fallen or injured from across the region, in a mega programme of cultural events. Owen lived in Birkenhead as a youth and these years constitute the longest period of residence anywhere during his short life. His death, just a week before the Armistice in 1918, was a tragedy for our national literature.

Major arts and cultural figures from across the country will be visiting over our ten days, and many readers will already have got their tickets. In one of our most exciting events, I will be in conversation with Michael Morpurgo on November 3, perhaps the greatest children’s writer on the topic of war since Michelle Magorian. Local playwrights, poets, and artists are all going to be involved, with plays, installations, films, unveilings, and readings occurring throughout our ten days.

Many months ago, when planning our commemoration, I was lucky enough to read Owen’s school reports from his time at Birkenhead School. Evidently no one could have predicted back then that here was one of the greatest poets ever to write in English. Hence the importance we are attaching to composition in our schools, both in music and words. Our patron, Dame Patricia Routledge, will be visiting some of these workshops, and members of the Olivier Award-winning War Horse theatre troupe will be leading classes in our primary schools.

On Sunday 4 November, the hundredth anniversary of Owen’s death, Songs of Praise will be broadcast from Christ Church, Birkenhead, where Owen sang as a choirboy. Later that week, on 8 November, the War Poets Violins will play at St Saviour’s, Oxton. These are just two of the more than 30 events happening across the region. How exciting it is for our area to be gifted this brilliant series, and all put on through the hard work and initiative of local people.

To commemorate, of course, is to do more than simply remember. It is to enshrine in the memory that which must never be forgotten. One of the purposes of our commemoration is to create these memories, to be passed on to the next generation, and so on 9 November we will be lucky enough to watch some of our young people in our In Memoriam concert at Christ Church, Birkenhead. Here, the Wilfred Owen Choir, the Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Company, and Birkenhead School Chapel Choir will be performing, alongside others, overseen by acclaimed musical director Martin Neary. What a treat this will be, and how moving to be able to see our youngest carrying forward the memory of those who died, often only teenagers themselves.

Our aim, with all of this work, is that even when the poppies have been taken down, and our great cultural figures have headed home, we will have created a love of poetry, arts, and music in a new generation, and passed on the importance of remembering those who died. I do hope that many of you reading will come along and take part, to ensure that our ambition is realised.

For further information about any of our events, those free and those that have to be booked, please go to www.wilfredowencommemoration.com.