The Forest of Dean now boasts two breathtaking pieces of public art celebrating its rich literary heritage. The second of two giant murals was officially launched on Saturday (3rd November 2018) with a breakfast celebration at Coleford's community cafe, Sixteen, with friends and relatives of the late writers, fans and local dignitaries in attendance. The Coleford mural, on the side of the former Help Me Through the World pub shows three Forest of Dean writers. Dennis Potter and Joyce Latham both grew up in near-by Berry Hill (a stone's throw from the town), whilst Gloucestershire poet F W Harvey lived the latter part of his life at Yorkley, a few miles down the road. All three wrote work about the Forest. Will Harvey tapped into the dialect and stories of the area in many of his poems, and in his war-time broadcasts for BBC Radio, reflecting the character and humour of the Forest. Joyce Latham wrote about her time growing up, detailing some of the challenges faced by working class women at the time. Her poems too touch on many aspects of life and landscape in the Forest of Dean with great warmth and often humour. Dennis Potter became a major figure in television and film. Some of his very earliest work for television, in the form of documentary, were about the Forest, and as he turned to writing television drama several of his most significant splays and serials involved the Forest. Filming on location in the Forest of Dean would often involve local people as extras, and on more than one occasion featured the music of his beloved Berry Hill Band.
Whilst the Coleford mural reflects Forest authors with strong West Dean connections, its sister-mural in Cinderford - opposite community art venue Artspace - depicts three writers with strong associations with East Dean. Leonard Clark grew up in Cindeford and wrote extensively about the Forest in his memoirs and in his poetry. Humourist, poet and playwright Harry Beddington was similarly born in Cinderford and later lived only a few doors up from Clark's former childhood home. Winifred Foley knew the town well as a child growing up in near-by Brierley. Again, for these three writers too, the people and places of the Forest were a vital source of stories, settings, and characters, and they are part of a writing tradition in the Forest dating back to the first years of the nineteenth century - and continues to this day.
The murals are the work of local artist Tom Cousins who worked withReading the Forest on the initial design, then consulted widely with local residents and businesses, taking particular note of people who overlook the murals. "The support for the murals has been really good'" said Tom, "with lots of positive comments even whilst I was still working on them".