Q&A with Lead Artist Robyn Woolston

What inspired you to work on the Wilfred Owen Festival? 


I’ve been working on various World War One commissions over the past few years. At the start of 2017 I was commissioned as the inaugural Artist in Residence at The Highlanders' Museum (Queen's Own Highlanders Collection) near Inverness, Scotland. A project which involved exploring archive material related to the experiences of Cameron and Seaforth soldiers.

It’s provided an extraordinary journey into the psyche of both soldiers and families alike; from letters and postcards home to war diaries and hastily scribbled notes one begins to understand how deeply impacting the experiences of the ‘Great’ war were so many people in so many countries.

When the opportunity arose to work on the festival with both the Williamson Museum and Art Gallery in Birkenhead and the surrounding community I jumped at the chance. I’ve spent many years working in the North West and living on the Wirral, as well as Liverpool, and I still feel a deep connection to the area. Added to this the fact that Wilfred Owen left a huge creative legacy behind him when he died (just a week before the war ended) and you have the recipe for a deeply evocative and poignant collaborative project.

Can you share a little more about your work with communities?

I’ve worked in both Fine Art and Socially Engaged environments for over 20 years now and I’m always keen to engage communities within projects that take their expression beyond the A4 sheet! I design engagement strategies that enable co-creation, that enhance curiosity and confidence so as to ultimately create environments and installations that empower. I hope that the Wilfred Owen Festival 2018 project will create the right conditions for bold and inventive responses that are as relevant today as they would have been during 1914-1918.

In parallel, I’ve also begun working with The Cheltenham Trust, The Wilson and Cheltenham Borough Council on a First World War project titled The Listening Station.

The project is also grant funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and involves multiple project partners. The overall aim is to work with a range of partners to connect Cheltenham today and its communities to the significance of World War One historically. It will look at the war’s impact on the health and well-being of soldiers and their families as well as the ongoing impact of war on health and wellbeing today. 

How long have you been an Artist?

For as long as I can remember! My earliest memories involve sitting on the floor, working with a large piece of paper and pasting, painting and drawing. I’m particularly interested in layering, collage and palimpsest. The idea that narratives repeat themselves and that the ‘ghost’ of previous experiences, colours and textures can influence new perspectives. I often work in an interdisciplinary manner on site-specific and site-responsive commissions so I’m frequently digging-deep into historical narratives and researching how the past can impact upon the future.

If you would like to read more about Robyn's work, please visit her website http://www.robynwoolston.com/ 


Birkenhead’s MP to launch The Wilfred Owen Commemoration 2018

Frank Field MP and Dame Patricia Routledge will be launching the Wilfred Owen Commemoration on Saturday 17th March between 2- 4pm at the Pyramids Shopping Centre, on the eve of Owen’s 125th birthday. The community of Birkenhead is invited to take part in this event and to share their memories of World War One.


Wilfred Owen and his family lived in Birkenhead between 1897 and 1907, during which time he attended the Birkenhead Institute. He was killed a week before the 1918 armistice.

 100 years after his death, the community of Birkenhead will be honouring Wilfred Owen, as well as all of those who fought in World War One, with a series of events throughout November 2018. These events include:

  •  Songs of Praise Broadcast from Christ Church Oxton focusing on the life of Wilfred Owen
  • A performance from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hanover Orchestra of Britten’s War Requiem in Liverpool Cathedral
  • A series of writing and art workshops across schools in Birkenhead
  • An exhibition at The Williamson Art Gallery to display and commemorate the memories of people from Birkenhead

As part of the festival, Frank Field MP is asking all those who have ceramic poppies in the Wirral to loan them to the commemoration, so that they might be gifted to families who have lost loved ones in recent wars.

If you would like any more information or would like to get in touch about loaning a poppy, please email info@wilfredowencommemoration.com.