A PROJECT to celebrate Dunsden’s connection with First World War poet Wilfred Owen has received a grant of almost £23,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The Dunsden Owen Association and arts company Outrider Anthems will use the money to stage a series of events this year, which marks the centenary of the start of the Great War.
Owen lived in Dunsden from 1911 to 1913 and was a lay assistant to the vicar at All Saints’ Church.
He enlisted into the army in 1915 and was commissioned into the Manchester Regiment. He was killed on November 4, 1918 while attempting to lead his men across the Sambre-Oise canal at Ors.
The association is developing the Wilfred Owen Trail, which will enable people to discover stories about the poet’s time in Dunsden. It will be launched on November 9.
There will be also a special exhibition at the village hall from November 7 to 9 that will focus on Owen, the story of Dunsden during the Great War and those who fought and how the village has changed since then. The £22,800 grant will also fund a programme of oral history recordings while some of the money has already gone on the development of a new website, www.owenindunsden.org
Jennifer Leach, who co-chairs the association and is director of Outrider Anthems, said: “The generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund enables us to celebrate this unique connection with one of England’s greatest war poets. We plan to develop the Dunsden trail as a Smartphone app and an online trail and will base it on the compelling letters Owen wrote home. There will be alternative formats for non-technically minded visitors.” Co-chairman John Bodman said: “My main concern is introducing this church and this community to the world.
“We have this great heritage here but we haven’t taken advantage of it and we hope that with all the work we’re doing more people will come to this church to worship and learn more about Wilfred Owen.”
Stuart McLeod, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund (South-East), said: “Through his poetry and letters, Wilfred Owen painted a vivid picture of the atrocities of the First World War.
“We’re proud to be supporting this project that will enable local people to learn about, remember and record this part of his tragically short life and explore the moving work he created.”
A vigil concert by the Reading-based A440 Choir will be held at All Saints’ Church on August 4 from 9.30pm to 11pm.
A group is also planning to visit Ors in northern France, where Owen is buried, in August. The trip will coincide with the town’s annual river jousting competition. It is hoped that the village can twin with Ors in 2018.
On November 8, Remembrance Sunday weekend, there will be a concert based on Owen’s letters to his mother at the church.
On November 9 a lunch will be held in the village hall and on Tuesday, November 11, which is Armistice Day, there will be a commemoration at the war memorial on the village green.