The Sylvia Townsend Warner Society Weekend 29 June - 1 July 2012

Throughout all the events of this very important time for the Sylvia Townsend Warner Society we especially remembered and honoured our member Dr Mary Jacobs, who died in May 2012.

‘Revisiting Sylvia Townsend Warner’ Symposium Friday 29 June 2012

The symposium ‘Revisiting Sylvia Townsend Warner’, which took place at the Dorset County Museum on 29 June 2012, was organised by the Centre for South West Writing, Exeter University, and the Dorset County Museum. The STW Society supported and encouraged the idea and we were delighted at the success of this event. It was truly international, with presenters from USA, Spain and Germany, as well as UK, and the range of topics covered a huge number of STW’s works.

It was encouraging to see so much lively academic interest in STW, with 13 speakers presenting us with challenging and innovative ideas. Over 40 people attended the event, indicating perhaps a revival of interest in STW and her works. Our thanks are due to the organisers for working so hard to achieve this.

Peter Tolhurst, of Black Dog Books, launched his exciting new volume ‘With the Hunted’, a collection of non-fiction writings by STW. This is a beautifully presented publication which will grace the bookshelves of all STW fans. See the news entry on our Homepage for details about this book.

After the symposium, members of the Society and presenters at the symposium gathered together for a celebratory meal and further informal discussion.

‘Words and Music with Sylvia Townsend Warner’ 30 June 2012

On the following day at the Dorset County Museum, the STW Society staged ‘Words and Music with Sylvia Townsend Warner’. We dedicated this concert to the memory of Dr Mary Jacobs and several of her family were in the audience.

The concert consisted of musical settings by STW, her friends and contemporaries, and readings by Society members from STW’s works. The Barn Choir, under the direction of Dr Richard Hall, performed magnificently and we greatly enjoyed listening to STW’s transcriptions of several pieces from the Carnegie Tudor Church Music Project.

The highlight of the concert was the first UK performance of a musical setting of STW’s poem ‘Azrael’, commissioned by Jay Barksdale, who presented the work to the Society, and composed by Jonathan David, who came over from USA specially to attend. Julia Simpson, the soloist, gave a triumphant performance of this work, accompanied on piano by Dr Richard Hall, and had the audience cheering and applauding with huge enthusiasm.

The event surpassed our expectations, both in the size of the audience, which amounted to over 60, and in the obvious enjoyment and positive comments made by many people afterwards. Again our very grateful thanks are due to all the performers, to Lynn Mutti for tireless work in getting everything together, to the Museum staff and volunteers for their help, and to Jay Barksdale and Jonathan David for the gift of the song ‘Azrael’.

St Nicholas Church, East Chaldon, 31 June 2012

On the final day, several Society members gathered at the churchyard in East Chaldon to honour STW in our usual way. In this peaceful churchyard is a stone dedicated to Sylvia Townsend Warner and Valentine Ackland, whose ashes are buried here. The inscription reads:

Valentine Ackland
1906 – 1969
Non omnis moriar
Sylvia Townsend Warner
1893 – 1978

‘Non omnis moriar’ is from a work by the Roman poet Horace. Its translation is ‘I shall not wholly die’ or ‘Not all of me will die’. It is a very fitting epitaph for these two writers whose work is remembered by many, especially members of The Sylvia Townsend Warner Society. Whenever the Society meets in Dorset, members gather at the graveside to read poetry, lay flowers and pay tribute.

A farewell lunch at the Sailor’s Return concluded the weekend.

Read the original programme for The Sylvia Townsend Warner Society Weekend 29 June - 1 July 2012.
Read the Call for Papers of the Centre for South West Writing, University of Exeter and the Dorset County Museum.