With the co-operation of two French communes (Haute Sambre-Bois L’Eveque, Mayor Marc Dufrenne, and Ors, Mayor Jacky Duminy) and the Wilfred Owen Association France, the Rector of the Academie de Lille, Mme Marie-Jeanne Philippe, organized a special event to mark the 13th Day of Remembrance in Education in France on Friday 27 May. The event was supported by the Vimy Foundation, the War Graves Commission and the Wellington Quarry at Arras. Peter Owen, President of the Wilfred Owen Association, and his wife Elizabeth were special guests.
The event honoured the memory of Wilfred Owen and brought together 160 students from colleges and lycees in Nord Pas de Calais who have studied Owen’s work. Students from a school in Maidstone, Kent, were also invited.
The day began near the Forester’s House, where Owen wrote his last letter. Turner Prize nominee Simon Patterson has been commissioned to convert the House into a permanent sculptured memorial to Owen. The exterior of the house will remain ostensibly the same, but the walls will be rendered white, the roof will be white and the whole building will look like a solid sculptural object. Viewed from the north, the roof will appear normal but when viewed from the south, the structure reveals itself to be in the form of an open ‘book’, face down with spine uppermost, the ‘pages’ constructed out of glass to admit maximum daylight into the interior. The central idea is to create a sanctuary away from the outside world. The interior will therefore be gutted, leaving an open white space, lit from above. The interior of the house will be clad with a translucent skin of glass onto which are etched drafts of Owen’s Anthem for Doomed Youth. The cellar remains untouched and is accessed by a curved ramp alongside which runs the text of Owen’s last letter home to his mother. More information is on the Art Connexion website.
Photos of the work, which is due to be completed in July, are below. The inaugural ceremony will be held on October 1 2011 (all welcome). For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org
Work on the House
The Forester's House from the road
The cellar where Owen wrote his last letter
Inside the Forester's House
After visiting the Forester’s House, a ceremony took place at Owen’s grave in the small cemetery of the village of Ors, where there were speeches, as well as poetry readings, in English and French. A wreath was laid by the children on Wilfred’s grave.
Peter Owen and others in Ors
Students at the ceremony