A PIECE OF HISTORY TO TAKE ROOT AT CROOME
‘Plumlines’ at the National Trust is a collection of real life stories expressed through one-hundred word poems, written by people from across Worcestershire about a female relatives life during the First World War.
“Working with two poets, Brenda Read-Brown and Heather Wastie, we held workshops across Worcestershire with schools, writers groups, history groups and volunteers,” said Rachel Sharpe, Croome’s Creative Partnerships Manager. “Their task was to research a female relative from the First World War and bring her story to life in a one-hundred word poem. Some of the people who took part had never written poetry before, but every single poem is beautifully written, moving and has an important story to tell, in most cases a hidden story. Everyone learnt something new about their family, and some writers were moved to tears when sharing their work. Once the poems were written, we began to look for a fitting way to exhibit them in the house.”
The inspiration for Plumlines came from a little known story at Croome, of how a woman before her time the inspiring American heiress Viscountess Deerhurst, helped the 9th Earl of Coventry see the many ways in which women could provide crucial support to the men at the front line. It was Virginia’s commitment and strength that helped Lord Coventry mobilise Pershore’s first ever Women’s Institute (WI), by encouraging 100 women to meet. The WI’s jam making skills, using the Pershore plum, helped the war effort at home and on the on the battlefields where it was sent to help keep up the calorie intake of the troops. The centenary of that meeting is on 21 November 2016.
Croome was inspired by Virginia’s strength and determination, and wanted to find a way to tell this forgotten story in her historic home. Working with poets, schools, writers groups, history groups and volunteers the 188 poems were penned.
Artist Su Blackwell was commissioned and transformed them into 188 saplings using paper, each one containing a unique poem. These saplings will form part of a larger exhibition in the house where visitors can see a book containing all 188 poems, poetry displayed on walls, jam jars and utensils.
“After reading all of the poems, domestic jam-making in Pershore during the First World War was a recurring theme” said artist, Su Blackwell. “Researching the area, I spoke to historians, museums, and local orchard growers, with regards to the famous Pershore plum. After collecting many hundreds of Pershore purples and yellows in Evesham, I made plum jam, and kept the discarded plum stones which also form part of the installation. The paper saplings represent new life, hope and beginnings for these women, who helped to win the war. I set out to produce a beautiful, fragile art-work, which would complement the poems, creating a space for thought and quiet reflection. I feel very honoured to be part of this project, commemorating the forgotten voices of local women, through their family and friend's words.”
To launch the opening of the exhibition, funded by Trust new Art, on 19 November, Dame Carol Ann will also be performing during the opening bringing which hopes to bring laughter and reflection from the audience during her performance. She will also read from her acclaimed collections, including ‘The World’s Wife’ and ‘The Bees’ including First World War poems ‘The Christmas truce’ and ‘The Last post’. Alongside Carol’s readings, John Sampson will take everyone on a virtuoso tour through musical highlights of the past 500 years played on a fascinating collection of period and modern instruments. The Oriel Singers, will be performing wartime songs and also premier a song penned by Brenda Read-Brown and composed by Freya Ireland about the connection of the 9th Earl of Coventry and Viscountess Deerhurst to the creation of Pershore’s first WI. Professor Maggie Andrews from Worcester University will be holding ‘Jamfest’ where visitors can learn more about the history of jam and the Pershore plum which lots of jam tasting too.
It is hoped that the exhibition will ensure the story of the Earl, The Viscountess and the First World War takes root at Croome.
Visitors can join the opening on Saturday, 19 November at 11am until 4.30pm on the first floor of the house. The exhibition will run until the end of 2017.
Croome is open throughout the year. The park and lakeside are open from 10am until 5.30pm and Croome Court is open from 11am to 4.30pm every day. Normal admission applies.
For more information please call: 01905 371006 or visit the website www.nationaltrust.org.uk/croome