Dylan Thomas and James Berry Added to the Chiswick Writers Trail

Announcement marks the start of the 150 Festival at St Paul's Grove Park

Dylan Thomas (left) and James Berry (right)
Dylan Thomas (left) and James Berry (right)

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Two 20th Century poets, Dylan Thomas (Under Milk Wood) and James Berry (Windrush Songs), have been added to Chiswick’s Writers Trail, which features novelists, poets and playwrights who lived in Chiswick or had connections with the area.

They are the first of a dozen names to be added to the list, which already includes WB Yeats, Harold Pinter, Dame Iris Murdoch, John Osborne, WM Thackeray, Alexander Pope, Sir John Betjeman, EM Forster, JG Ballard, Anthony Burgess and Nancy Mitford.

A further 400 writers are listed on the ‘Chiswick Timeline of Writers & Books’, leading The Observer to write that ‘Chiswick may be Britain’s most literary location’.

It was recently confirmed that Dylan Thomas, best known for works such as Under Milk Wood, Do not go gentle into that good night and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog, lived in the Vicarage of St Paul’s Grove Park during World War II. Val Bott of the Brentford & Chiswick Local History Society unearthed a letter written by him from the Vicarage. He later moved to Hammersmith Terrace and also stayed regularly at Strand on the Green. The details can be found on a new page of the Chiswick Timeline of Writers and Books, ‘Dylan Thomas in Chiswick’.

St Paul’s Grove Park starts its 150th birthday celebrations this Sunday 15 May. Its six-week ‘150 Festival’ kicks off with two performances of Hear the People Sing: a concert of music with links to Chiswick – tickets can be bought on Eventbrite and at the door.

That will be followed by other concerts, services, a poetry evening, a history talk, a flower festival and a comedy night. A new exhibition reveals more about the church and its place in Grove Park’s history. Ticket information and other details are on the St Paul’s website.

Hear the People Sing features music with a connection to Chiswick or to St Paul’s church over the last 150 years. An adult choir of 50, a children’s choir of 40 from the Unicorn School in Kew, an orchestra of professional musicians and guest performers from the world of West End musical theatre will provide an eclectic show.

James Berry, the Jamaican-born poet who came to Britain as part of the ‘Windrush generation’, spent weekends in Bedford Park, Chiswick, for 20 years before moving into a flat in Homecross House in Fishers Lane. He was filmed there giving a reading - Windrush Songs - and lived there till 2011, when Alzheimer’s Disease led him to go into a nursing home. His works continue to sell well and in August 2022 one of his award-winning poetry books for children, Only One of Me, is being reissued. His literary archive has been acquired by the British Library.

Hannah Lowe, who presented a Radio 4 feature on James Berry in 1995, wrote, ‘James Berry was a pioneering writer, educator, editor and activist – a wonderful poet whose writing for both adults and children was characterised by compassion, humour and an acute eye for the political and social factors that shaped his life, and the lives of others. At 92, he was one of the last surviving literary voices of the early Windrush Generation.’ You can read more on the Chiswick Book Festival website, ‘James Berry: Poet of the Windrush generation’.

Torin Douglas, director of the Chiswick Book Festival, said, “When we created the Chiswick Writers Trail in 2018, I was delighted to have found 21 acclaimed poets, playwrights and novelists who had lived here. Since then, residents have suggested many more and, after checks by local historians and others, we have chosen a dozen to join the list. We’ll announce more names in the next few weeks on social media, leading up to WB Yeats’s birthday on June 13th, which will be celebrated at the annual Poetry Evening in the Bedford Park Festival.”

The current Writers Trail map, sponsored by Horton and Garton, can be picked up in St Michael & All Angels Church or downloaded here.

The 56th Bedford Park Festival will take place from 10 June 10 to 26 June 2022.

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May 14, 2022

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