This Saturday (1st October) is another opportunity to find out about one of the Forest's most significant poets, Leonard Clark. Reading the Forest is very pleased to be part of the second, annual, Cinderford Memorabilia Day being held at the Town Council offices on Belle Vue Road. Exploring the history of Cinderford this community initiative will once again be full of rare and fascinating objects, documents and photographs. Discover more, too, about Cinderford raised Clark, the Forest poet who became known around the world, and whose ashes now rest in his home town's St Stephen's church (where the exhibition was first shown as part of the Heritage Open Days).
The ‘Life and Work of Leonard Clark’ exhibition at St Stephens Church, Cinderford on Saturday 10 the September 2016, attracted over 50 visitors. Staged as part of the Heritage Open Day programme, the event featured information about Leonard Clark’s life, recordings of him reading his work and a huge collection of his published work. The sheer diversity and breadth of his writing from 1924 until after his death in 1981, surprised and delighted many of those who attended. Most visitors had heard of or read his biographical accounts of growing up in the Forest and there was discussion about many of the characters and places in his books including the organist at St Stephens and teachers at Double View School.
People from Cinderford remembered the George family, and several remembered Leonard Clark himself from his visits to the Forest and in one instance, an overnight stay at their home. One visitor recalled Leonard attending a harvest festival service at the church in 1980 when he told a story about a young chorister at the church that turned out to be the author himself. The service of remembrance attended by Leonard Clark’s wife and son was recalled, and also the challenges in making arrangements for the interment of his ashes within the church that took three and a half years, until 1985.
The Reading the Forest team were particularly delighted to see press cuttings, and letters received from local people from Leonard Clark. These were easily recognisable by his small and precise script; he used a type writer in the 1940’s but preferred handwritten letters. One batch of letters contained correspondence between Leonard Clark and one of his pupils that began in 1944 and continued throughout his life. In the letters he encouraged his ex-pupil (from Double View school) to continue their reading and provided recommendations. Sylvia Mills recalled taking her daughter, Mairi, to receive a poetry prize from him at Stroud Subscription rooms. Several, mostly retired teachers remarked on his influence on how they taught poetry. Ninety-three-year-old, Joan Reed (pictured left), remembered using his anthology Common Ground to teach poetry in High school after she qualified as a teacher in 1947.
The overall impression gained from people who remembered him and the correspondence was of a man who, despite celebrity and national recognition, was still grounded in the Forest and felt firmly anchored to his roots in Cinderford. He appears to have struggled to find the security and comfort he had experienced in his formative years. His frequent returns in later life brought him back into contact with the Forest and other emerging authors over whom his work had a significant influence. The Reading the Forest team were extremely grateful to the people who came along and Cinderford Churches for hosting the event and providing refreshments.
As part of the fantastic national Heritage Open Days we're delighted to be able to invite visitors to St Stephens Church in Cinderford - the final resting place of one of the Forest's most successful ever poets - Leonard Clark.
An opportunity to see a rare collection of all of his work and hear some recently discovered recordings all related to this renowned poet and educationalist. Leonard Clark was a prolific author and editor, and the highlight of the exhibition is the opportunity to see a collection of his entire catalogue of written work, stretching from 1923 until his death in 1981, comprising over one hundred books. You will also get the opportunity to hear recordings of him reading his own work loaned by the British Sound Library.
Leonard or ‘Bob’ as he was known was raised in Belle Vue Road. He was a protégé of the Yorkley poet FW Harvey and his first work was published just after the First World War. He became a teacher and educationalist, authoring poems and books for adults and children. He lived in many parts of Britain and became an important literary figure in the UK and USA, where his poetry for children was very influential. His biographies of his childhood and adolescence in the Forest, A Fool in the Forest, Green Wood and Grateful Caliban are still popular. The exhibition will include a full description of his life and career and early photographs loaned by his family.
The exhibition is free and refreshments will be available all day.
The University of Gloucestershire, Reading the Forest Project, have organised the exhibition supported by the Heritage Open Days scheme and Cinderford Churches.