Timely talks at this year’s Hughes Festival

Ted Hughes
Ted Hughes

For the Ted Hughes Festival this year, local filmmaker and historical researcher Nick Wilding, spent part of the summer in the British Library in London, delving into material from Ted’s unpublished archive.

He was preparing his part of the talk on ‘Ted Hughes and World War One’, which will start at the Poet’s Cafe in the Erringden Room at St Michael’s Church, Mytholmroyd, at 10.30am on Saturday, October 25.

He is keeping his fingers crossed, because he is currently in negotiation with the Ted Hughes Estate and their publishers Faber and Faber, who act as agents for controlling the unpublished material, to permit him to reveal aspects of the Ted Hughes’ archive, that have never before been revealed to the public.

Nick was at the British Library, specifically to research the wartime experience of Ted’s father, Willie Hughes, who features as the subject of various poems. ‘Out’ and other poems emanate from the impact the war had upon his father, who is portrayed sitting in his armchair, reliving what he had seen, totally traumatised through what he had witnessed.

Willie Hughes, like many lads, who lived on the Western side of Hebden Bridge, had joined the Lancashire Fusiliers in Todmorden. They ended up fighting in 1915 in the Dardanelles in Turkey. Nick will be using accounts from other young men, who fought there, to illustrate why the experience of Gallipoli was so debilitating, not just for him but for many other so-called survivors of the war. Willie, like many other returning soldiers, was unhappy about describing his experience to his family and various Hughes family legends grew about it. If permitted to do so by the Hughes Estate, Nick will be looking at the provenance of those stories and will assess their likelihood from what we know of their historical context.

From his research, Nick will also explain why the subject of Ted Hughes poem ‘Wilfred Owen’s Photographs’ is about an act of parliament that was passed in the Victorian era, many years before Owen was even born.

Nick is quietly confident that the Estate will permit him to reveal such material from the archive on a one-time only basis, but he is likely to have to sign some legal documents before the event.

The talk will continue with David Blanchard, looking at Willie’s uncle, Walter Farrar, and the wartime experience of other lads from the St Michael’s church brigade in Mytholmroyd. It will then continue with the Mayor of Hebden Royd Jonathan Timbers taking a personal look at the rest of Ted’s World War One inspired poetry.

Then, there is planned to be some discussion with the audience of the issues before it finishes at noon.