Talks, Walks, and Sausages - Edward Thomas Commemoration

Posted on 24th October 2014

100 years to the day that he completed his first poem, celebrated war poet and Steep resident Edward Thomas is to be commemorated.

Organised jointly by Bedales School and Churcher’s College, an event on Sunday 16 November will see presentations at Bedales on Thomas’ life and poetic influence by Dr Guy Cuthbertson of Liverpool Hope University and member of the Edward Thomas Fellowship, and the poet’s relationship with the local landscape by David Anson (Bedales) and David Cave (Churcher’s College). These will be accompanied by an exhibition in memory of Bedales and Churcher’s College students who died in WWI, and also an additional opening of the exhibition in Bedales’ Gallery of furniture by the Edward Barnsley Workshop, renowned local Arts & Crafts inspired furniture designer-makers.

A tour of Steep will include visits to the memorial window in All Saints Church and Thomas’ place of writing in Froxfield, an optional walk to the Poet’s Stone on Shoulder of Mutton Hill, and lunch at the White Horse at Priors Dean where Irish literary critic Edna Longley, and poet Michael Longley, CBE will mark the anniversary. Also known as ‘The Pub With No Name’, The White Horse is entwined with Thomas’ biography as a poet, being the subject of his first poem Up in the Wind and, latterly, home to the Edward Thomas corner in the lounge bar. The commemorative sausage, to be served on the day, combines a variety of the poet’s favourite foods as revealed by the pub’s own research – chicken, ham, pork, wild garlic, and a strain of watercress specific to Hampshire. A vegetarian option will also be available.

Thomas’ achievements are made more special still by the fact that he came to poetry so late in his life, and pursued it for such a short time. His early and rather precarious career as a writer lay in books and journalism – notably in literary criticism. However, he became friends with the American poet Robert Frost who encouraged him to write verse, which he did prolifically for two short years. Despite not being obliged to enlist in the Armed Forces as he was married, he joined the Artists Rifles in 1915 and was killed on the Western Front at the Battle of Arras on Easter Day 1917. Since then, Thomas' reputation as a poet has increased greatly: he is commemorated in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey, with Ted Hughes (Poet Laureate 1984-1998) describing him as ‘the father of us all’.

There will also be a musical celebration of Edward Thomas' work and life at 8pm on Saturday 15 November in the Bedales Lupton Hall. Pedal Folk and Three Cane Whale’s music draws inspiration not only from Edward Thomas’ words but also the themes of an English culture that he searched for and reflected upon through his love of poetry, of folk song and the joy that he took in travelling the land.

Tickets are available for both events from Bedales Box Office: tickets@bedales.org.uk or 01730 711511. Talks, tours and lunch 16 November: £25 (£15 students); Musical celebration 15 November £10 (£8 concessions).