BULLETS & DAFFODILS
The story so far...
Bullets And Daffodils
According to Wilfred's nephew Peter Owen (the son of Wilfred's youngest brother Colin) “Bullets and Daffodils is and has a good contemporary way of introducing people of all ages, but particularly the younger to Wilfred’s poetry.” Mr Owen has offered invaluable editorial advice to the musical's narration.
This narration is read by much loved TV actor Christopher Timothy (James Herriot in the classic BBC series All Creatures Great And Small). His instantly recognisable voice tells Wilfred's story in a sensitive but authoritative tone. Christopher says “The music is fantastic. I felt honoured to be asked to be involved.”
Early in the development of this project, the narration was undertaken by Professor Sean Street of the BBC World Service, whose encouragement was invaluable.
With acknowledgement by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the political commentator Jeremy Paxman, anticipation for the performances has been high.
Symbolically the first performances of Bullets And Daffodils took place during remembrance week 2010, starting with a matinee for the North Wales branch of the Western Front Association (http://www.westernfrontassociation.com).
Even committed war history enthusiasts left the event promising to “look at war poetry differently from now on”. The Western Front Association attended and supported all the following week's performances.
The Wirral premiere of ‘Bullets And Daffodils’ was held at the Birkenhead Central Library on Wednesday 10th November, performed in the shadow of the spectacular tribute window dedicated to Wilfred Owen. The library is within a mile of each of the Owens's three Birkenhead homes and the demolished Birkenhead Institute School (the musical's creator Dean Johnson was also educated there).
The performance at the library was introduced by the former head of the Birkenhead library, John Baxter, who spoke knowledgeably of Owen's local connections and the artefacts to be found within the building. Mr Baxter closed with the words “Birkenhead has always celebrated its famous sons and Dean Johnson is the latest.”
A poignant moment prior to the Birkenhead premier was the unveiling of a new portrait of Wilfred Owen by the artist Georgina Flood and unveiled by the present head of the library Linda Hodgson.
The week of events culminated in extracts of the musical performed at a small arts club founded by 60’s legend John Gorman. The writer and director is producing a script for the stage version of Wilfred’s story. A small select gathering gasped in reverence at John’s tender thoughtful rendering of Owen’s inner thoughts during the dark hours of the war. Even at this early stage a perfect symmetry exists with the music and the understated respectful dialogue.
Most recently in the Bullets And Daffodils history, the score’s most effecting love song and the finale, I Would Fight For You, has just been released in aid of the Great Ormond Street Hospital. It received its inaugural play on BBC Radio Merseyside on Remembrance Sunday and a version of the piece will tour schools in March 2011 through a partnership with Brian McCann’s Active Drama Company.
A new website entitled the Wilfred Owen Story (www.wilfredowenstory.com) has been launched. The aim of this is to establish a permanent site of commemoration to Wilfred Owen within the Wirral featuring an interactive timeline of the poet’s life.
A meeting took place in December 2010 with the Personal Assistant to the Duke of Westminster, Victoria Bolton to discuss the Wilfred Owen Story project. The meeting proved encouraging and informative.
A special festive performance of Bullets and Daffodils, entitled Bullets and Bunting, was held at Christ Church in Oxton Birkenhead. This was a very poignant location, as Wilfred himself attended Sunday school in the very room the performance took place in. His father also helped at the Church. The present staff at Christ Church were so enthusiastic about the performance they spent many hours researching the church minutes and found confirmation of the Owen’s family connection.
January 2011 has seen the first issue of the e-magazine ‘Voices’, available form the Wilfred Owen Story website (www.wilfredowenstory.com). This multimedia publication aims to enable people to find their own voice and use it to the greatest effect in the spirit of the profound messages of Wilfred Owen.
Following the setting up of the display at Wallasey Town Hall, Dean had the honour of an interview with the Mayor of Wirral, Councillor Alan Jennings. A keen poet himself, the mayor pledged to do all within his powers to heighten Wilfred Owen’s profile in the Wirral.
The full-scale theatre production of ‘Bullets And Daffodils’ will premiere to coincide with the anniversary of Wilfred Owen’s birthday in March 2011.
Many thanks to The Wilfred Owen Association (www.wilfredowen.org.uk) whose support has been paramount. They have dedicated a page on their website to Bullets And Daffodils. The link can be found on our Links Page.
The Wilfred Owen Story, a permanent commemorative exhibition of Wilfred's life and work, with an emphasis on his time Birkenhead is very proud to announce that they will be based at 34 Argyle Street, Birkenhead.www.wilfredowenstory.com
Operating as a information centre and art gallery the Wilfred Owen Story will be the first designated cultural memorial to the poet anywhere in the North West.
It is situated on all major bus routes in the town, and is minutes from Hamilton Square Station (previously Woodside Central, where Wilfred’s father Tom worked as a station manager).
Argyle Street is steeped in history: Wilfred learned to swim at the public baths there and No. 34 is in a terrace that received a English Heritage Blue Plaque, the site is grade 2 listed.
Work on the exhibition will begin this week and it will have its official opening on 18 March, Wilfred’s birthday.
The Wilfred Owen Story Experience will feature regular art shows, plus poetry and music workshops and performances, and will encourage the community to find and use their voice to the same effect as the iconic figure that the building aims to honour.
We would like to thank The Wirral Methodist Housing Association for their support, and making this project possible.
Permission was granted by Their Graces The Duke and Duchess of Westminster for a special performance of Bullets And Daffodils in the spectacular wolf room at Eaton Park Estate, Chester, taking place on Tuesday 22 March at 3pm.
Birkenhead MP Frank Field pledged his support for The Wilfred Owen Story project by promising to endorse with a personal letter, any funding application that is made.
He is a long time admirer of Owen’s work, and was looking forward to hearing Bullets And Daffodils for himself.