Solihull will be celebrating its connection to world famous poet WH Auden with the first ever Auden Festival coming to town next weekend.
Auden, much-loved for his poems such as ‘Funeral Blues’, spent the formative years of his life in Solihull, living in Lode Lane and Homer Road in the town centre and was a regular visitor to St Alphege Church.
This new festival, which is a collaboration between Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council and Solihull Business Improvement District and programmed by Parrabbola (international community arts organisation), explores his artistic output through interpretations of his work, as well as that of his collaborators and contemporaries.
The festival, being held from February 18th – 21st, will focus on the ‘Art For All’ ethos, bringing the arts to audiences of all ages in a myriad of different ways.
These will include immersive street theatre performances across the town centre, live readings of poetry, film screenings in The Core Theatre, music performances, a vintage market and a museum style Auden installation in Touchwood as well as participatory activity for all.
Even after leaving the area, Auden’s strong connection to Solihull continued. He wrote a poem called “By The Gasworks, Solihull” in 1924 and returned in 1935 to help organise a marriage of convenience between German-Jewish actress Therese Giehse and John Hampson, a gay writer from Dorridge.
A full line up of activities, including a promenade theatre performance showcasing the ‘sham marriage’ and a showing of Four Weddings and a Funeral – which featured Auden’s ‘Funeral Blues poem – at The Core can be found on the BID website: www.solihullbid.co.uk/auden
Melanie Palmer, Chief Executive of Solihull BID, said: “Knowing that Auden spent many years here in Solihull, with Solihull referenced in selected works, it seemed only fitting to celebrate our connection to commemorate his birthday, which is the 21st February.
“The back stories of Auden’s life are complex tales of travel, love, and chaos. The festival showcases the history unique to Solihull, with tales of sham marriages to save an actress from the Nazis, to Auden breathing in the fumes at the gas works on Moat Lane for its perceived health benefits!
“Experience poetry and history as never before in your town centre, Saturday 19th is certainly a date not to miss!”
Cllr Karen Grinsell, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Sport, and Tourism at Solihull Council, added: “We have such a rich cultural history here in Solihull and the West Midlands – a history that can often be overlooked!
“I’m so glad we have a chance to spotlight one of the many talented and influential figures that grew up right here in Solihull.
“From his iconic works of poetry (‘Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone’ will be a familiar opening line to most!), to the fascinating story of his life and progressive social views, this festival will offer something every resident can enjoy and learn from. It’s certainly not one to be missed!”
Philip Parr, Artistic Director at Parrabbola, said: “When I became aware of the connection that Auden had to Solihull, a celebration was called for.
“This first festival explores the younger Auden, the traveller, commentator, lyricist and above all the crafter of timeless words that speak for us all. Concerts, theatre, film, painting and poetry - you're sure to find something that excites you and perhaps something that's new.
“We're delighted to be part of establishing this new international festival, which we intend should shine a spotlight on Solihull as a creative and cultural centre.”