Our Heritage Day and Arts Project. On Saturday 5th July Wincanton held a World War One Heritage & Arts project in Wincanton which has been planned and organised by Sophie Bellars who has been involved in securing our Heritage Lottery Fund Grant of £8,100 The following article describes what was achieved.
Sketches of Wartime Wincanton 5th July 2014 To remember the start of the First World War exactly a hundred years ago Wincanton has been the focus for a Heritage and Arts series of events. These have been introduced, co-ordinated and in many cases led by Sophie Bellars who received lottery funding to deliver the project.
The Library and the Museum The day started when the Library and the Museum opened to display a fascinating exhibition which focused on the remarkable drawings carried out by a young nurse, Constance Bilward who had travelled in daily from Horsington Manor, Templecombe, where she lived with her parents. Her record shows she was on duty for some 5,300 hours. The simple pencil drawings, done for her own amusement and for those she worked with, with their rhymes and captions reveal a sensitive, humorous and deeply compassionate young woman with considerable artistic skill. Members of her family still live at the manor and we need to find out more about her. (Research is ongoing. Watch for more news of her remarkable story) Nigel Fox, John Baxter and Chris Maltin were involved in setting up the display and stewarding, but it was John Atkins who had, when he was curator, copied Constance’s work so around twenty of her pictures are on display, thanks to the co-operation and encouragement of our library staff Shirley Hoar, Gillian Andrews and Jenny Sparkes who have now given over for the Museum a considerable area of wall space.. The Museum was also open with several WW1 objects and photos on display, and overall the Museum attracted 68 visitors and the library 175 on Saturday, the largest numbers ever for both of us. The exhibition continues in the Library and really is not to be missed. Exhibition at the Balsam Centre The focus then moved to the Balsam Centre where Sophie Bellars had set up an impressive and very different exhibition. Starting with the Guides she had shown them a collection of weapons, including a disarmed aerial missile belonging to the museum and asked them to come up with the key words that expressed their reactions. The images were then painted, printed and sewn onto a huge soft yet recognisable bomb which was thrown down on the floor. Unfortunately as it turned out there was a major Guide Jamboree going on at the Race Course, so none of the Guides was able to be there, but one of their leaders told me how she had seen Sophie get the girls she was working with really involved in the project. Next was the work done by Sophie with a group of very elderly ladies from Carrington House who had embroidered the names taken from the parish church memorial plates in order to make a large patchwork blanket which also included their regimental badges. Wincanton Primary School pupils had also worked with Sophie on a collaborative piece of art, exploring the stained glass window at the parish Church and responding to this by making their own versions. They also worked with Sophie on the life of Harry Hamblin of 1 Westhill who as a boy had joined the Navy to find himself drafted into a navy battalion who were sent off to the front. There he was wounded, recovered, but after being sent back to his unit, was killed. They produced coloured silhouettes of his head with lettering which told his brief, sad story. Selected Year 7 and 8 Art Students from King Arthur’s also had a chance to work with Sophie, examining the stained glass window at the Roman Catholic Church. She encouraged them to design their own stained glass windows which were painted on acetate and joined together. These were then placed in the windows of the Balsam Centre giving the room a surprisingly cheerful mood with their bright colours. Two of the artists, Daniel and Molly Chapman were there with their parents, keen to see how their work looked. Next the Chapel Cross Tearoom Choir came on. This group of women who sing together informally at the Chapel Cross Tearoom between North and South Cadbury, had prepared a programme of popular world war songs of the type the men were known to sing as they marched to – and if they were lucky – from the trenches. Words were passed around to all the spectators, so this was to be a sing-along. We sang each song twice, such gems as, Pack Up Your Troubles and Bless Em All. With their simple tunes and ironic words many of us found the experience strangely moving. These were their songs, not ours, but they felt here. Hanna Ashleigh and Tilly Cooper who cater on a Tuesday at the Balsam Centre had done their bit for the day by cooking up and baking a delicious spread for anyone who wished to stay around for the finale after lunch. Oh What A Lovely War A group of Year Nine (14yr olds) students from King Arthurs’ we heard had spent a total of 8 hours working under the direction of drama specialist Sue Huggins, currently at the theatre in Yeovil with her company Ministry of Play. What could this group possibly do to convey anything about World War 1? The boys came shuffling past in uniforms many times too big for them and the girls came on in black tights. We took our placessitting in the sun in the Balsam Centre’s beautiful garden wondering what we were in for. Well, not for long. From the start this little cast of seven threw themselves into everything with total focus and determination. They were there to tell us what it had been like in a series of short scenes which put across something of the scale, ferocity and futility of the conflict and the heartache and heart break of the letters from the front – ending with a final image of a row of the blinded and gassed being lead off the field. Speaking to Sue afterwards while congratulating her, she pointed out that most of the lines they had delivered were extempore, unscripted, yet they were delivered with complete conviction. There was no self-consciousness in this performance, just commitment. It made for a fitting end to a remarkable day and Sophie is to be thanked and congratulated on what she has done in involving so many in this worth-while project. John Baxter aided by Sophie Bellars And here are some photos.