A series of events taking place this summer and autumn will commemorate the centenary of war poet Wilfred Owen’s stay in Edinburgh in 1917. Owen’s time in the capital transformed him from a novice to the great poet of WW1 we remember today. The celebrations include a poem written to mark the anniversary by the National Poet for Scotland Jackie Kay, a special screening of Regeneration, and a re-enactment of Owen’s arrival at Waverley train station.
Suffering from shell shock, Owen was sent to Edinburgh to recover at Craiglockhart War Hospital, arriving on 26th June, 1917. Whilst recuperating, he met Siegfried Sassoon, WW1’s other great war poet, who had been sent to Craiglockhart, following his declaration against the continuation of the war. Encouraged by Sassoon, Owen began to write the poems that were to be his legacy. He composed two of his most famous poems, ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ and ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ at Craiglockhart.
Jackie Kay has written a poem about Owen in Edinburgh which she will premiere at a special event in August close to the date on which Owen and Sassoon met (as we have no evidence of the exact date). On 17th August, the Filmhouse will screen Regeneration, the 1997 adaptation of Pat Barker’s novel about Siegfried Sassoon and his doctor, Dr William H. R. Rivers at Craiglockhart War Hospital. The screening will be introduced by the film’s screenwriter Allan Shiach.
The commemoration begins on June 26, a century to the day since Owen arrived in Edinburgh. The Caledonian Sleeper will arrive in Waverley station, where a Great War re-enactor playing Owen will be met by Edinburgh’s Makar Christine De Luca, who will welcome him by reciting an Owen poem, and violinist Thoren Ferguson playing the Wilfred Owen Violin. The re-enactor will be accompanied by Peter Owen, the poet’s nephew. After his arrival, WW1 re-enactors will be positioned along Princes Street collecting money for Poppy Scotland and handing out a leaflet with Owen’s poem ‘Six o’clock in Princes Street’. Later the same day, Edinburgh Napier University will host a lecture by distinguished historian Professor Sir Hew Strachan on the First World War, with a particular focus on 1917 at Craiglockhart Campus.
On November 3, Owen’s last day in Edinburgh in 1917, the Scottish Poetry Library will hold a special event on Owen’s legacy.
The commemoration has been organised by Wilfred Owen’s Edinburgh 1917-2017, a committee co-ordinating Owen-themed events held by wide range of organisations, including the Wilfred Owen Association, Edinburgh Napier University, military charity Glen Art, Poppy Scotland, the Filmhouse, the Edinburgh International Book Festival, The Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Scottish Poetry Library, and more.
Events co-ordinated by Wilfred Owen’s Edinburgh 1917-2017 include:
June 26 am – a re-enactment of Owen’s arrival at Waverley Station.
June 26 pm – Professor Sir Hew Strachan lectures at Craiglockhart Campus, Edinburgh Napier University.
10 August – re-creation of a walk taken by Owen in the Pentland Hills.
15 August – Dr Neil McLennan, author of a forthcoming book about Owen’s time in Edinburgh, delivers a Royal Society of Edinburgh lecture at Craiglockhart Campus, Edinburgh Napier University.
16 August – premiere of Jackie Kay’s Owen / Sassoon poem
17 August – screening of Regeneration at the Edinburgh Filmhouse, introduced by screenwriter Allan Shiach.
October – panel discussion about Owen and shell shock at the Scottish Poetry Library.
3 November – event about Owen’s legacy at the Scottish Poetry Library.