The Masefield Memorial Project
"Laugh and be merry, remember, better the world with a song,
Better the world with a blow in the teeth of a wrong”
'Laugh and Be Merry', Ballads (1903)
Born in Ledbury on 1 June 1878, John Masefield’s childhood difficult and connection to Ledbury had a profound influence on his poetry. He was appointed British Poet Laureate in 1930 and held the post for almost 40 years until his death in 1967. The town and its surrounding countryside are clearly recognisable in many of his best known works.
Today, Ledbury Town Council is leading an initiative to celebrate and commemorate John Masefield’s life through a collaborative and celebratory creative project.
In particular, we are looking to:
- Discover and explore the work of John Masefield and its relevance to today’s communities through a series of engagement sessions.
- Co-create a brief for a longer-term memorial of the poet’s work, with the community. This will be developed from direct feedback from the engagement sessions and ongoing discussions with the community. This is likely to take place through 2024 -2026.
- Commission an artist/collective of artists to work with our community to realise an appropriate memorial to Masefield’s legacy, in 2028.
Our project is run by a working group, comprising representatives from local businesses, cultural organisations, councillors, the John Masefield Society, John Masefield's family and community groups. Our goal is to ensure that awareness of John Masefield is raised, that the community is connected to his work, whilst we explore how his legacy can be commemorated.
Background to Masefield's Memorial Project
In over 400 years of Poet Laureates, John Masefield is the only one to have his roots in Herefordshire. It is clear that Ledbury, the town of his birth and early childhood, directly and emotionally influenced his works. Ledbury Town Council is therefore pleased to facilitate a collaborative and celebratory arts-based project to commemorate one of our town’s most important citizens.
The foundation for this project is based on an understanding that the best way of exploring an individual’s legacy is to work it through with the community as a whole.
The Arts & Humanities Research Council recently stated: “A creative community describes a group of people who come together around a shared challenge or theme to create, act and share … Creative communities operate on relationships of trust, shared goals and objectives and generate spill-over benefits for people and communities. By identifying, responding to, and articulating their own needs, creative communities use partnership working to open up opportunity. They co-design and co-deliver interventions, and challenge received ways of thinking about some of the most significant challenges facing society today. Culture is uniquely placed to generate spill-over benefits - from high street regeneration to public health targets and pride in place.”
With this in mind, we are planning a wide-ranging series of engagement sessions with the town, working with creative practitioners and explorative of key questions around the relevance of Masefield’s work today, the role of creativity in present-day Ledbury and how both of these questions can be projected into the future.
CLM by John Masefield
In the dark womb where I began
My mother’s life made me a man.
Through all the months of human birth
Her beauty fed my common earth.
I cannot see, nor breathe, nor stir,
But through the death of some of her.
Down in the darkness of the grave
She cannot see the life she gave.
For all her love, she cannot tell
Whether I use it ill or well,
Nor knock at dusty doors to find
Her beauty dusty in the mind.
If the grave’s gates could be undone,
She would not know her little son,
I am so grown. If we should meet
She would pass by me in the street,
Unless my soul’s face let her see
My sense of what she did for me.
What have I done to keep in mind
My debt to her and womankind?
What woman’s happier life repays
Her for those months of wretched days?
For all my mouthless body leeched
Ere Birth’s releasing hell was reached.
What have I done, or tried, or said
In thanks to that dear woman dead?
Men triumph over women still,
Men trample women’s rights at will,
And man’s lust roves the world untamed.
O grave, keep shut lest I be shamed.
More images and infromation can be found at https://www.johnmasefieldsocie...
Want to get involved?
Communities, groups and partners
At the heart of The Masefield Memorial Project is a desire to connect communities with the work of the national poet and explore what his legacy means to the town today.
We want to discuss and understand how his work connects with Ledbury’s past, present and future and, to do that, we need to first connect with our communities.
Whether you are a community service, creative group, local residents' collective or individual living in Ledbury, we want to hear from you about your ideas for the project.
Ledbury Town Council has secured £10k funding for the first phase of this project. We are now committed to working with partners, individuals and communities keen to undertake this journey with us, and we will also be seeking additional funding through grant applications.
Whether you are a local business looking to support your community or a partner with a direct interest in the legacy of John Masefield, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
The Masefield Memorial project- Meet the team
The ‘team’ behind the Masefield Memorial project will ultimately be the communities and partners in Ledbury, but to help drive its formative stages we’ve pulled together a working group to get things moving!
The Working Group is made up of key town partners and the John Masefield Society, who are committed to making Masefield’s legacy a long-lasting one. Its formative members include:
- Ledbury Town Council https://www.ledburytowncouncil...
- The John Masefield Society https://www.johnmasefieldsocie...
- [Representative of] Ledbury Primary School https://www.ledbury.hereford.s...
- [Representative of] John Masefield High School https://www.jmhs.hereford.sch....
- Dr Philip W. Errington
- Caroline Magnus (Great Niece, John Masefield)
- Councillor Nick Morris
- Councillor Stephen Furlonger
Of course, these names are just the start and we are already excited to report much interest from potential partners, local businesses, and artists who are eager to get involved.
Get the latest updates
Opportunities to learn more and engage with the latest developments in the Masefield Memorial Project are constantly evolving, so please contact email@example.com for more information.