Cahal Dallat writes of the Yeats link with Chiswick
Why should Bedford Park should have a statue to honour Nobel-Prize-winning Irish poet & playwright W.B. Yeats?
Bedford Park’s always been proud of its architectural distinction as the first Garden Suburb and of its role as a late-nineteenth-century cultural melting pot and artists’ colony of actors, architects, authors and activists, just as Old Chiswick is proud of its eighteenth-century residents, Alexander Pope and William Hogarth.
WB Yeats has (along with Seamus Heaney) the distinction of being one of only two British/Irish-born poets who’ve won literature’s Nobel Prize.
Both were born in Ireland but Bedford Park and Chiswick can claim WB Yeats, who not only lived in Woodstock Road as a boy but, but returned with his family as a young man to live in Blenheim Road. It was there that he not merely wrote his great poem The Lake Isle of Innisfree inspired by Chiswick Eyot but wrote his first play The Land of Hearts Desire as a favour for some Blenheim Road neighbours and the theatrical friends he’d come to know through the Bedford Park Club on The Avenue.
Yeats also founded the Irish Literary Revival in that Blenheim Road house at Christmas 1891 and that literary revival, along with his Bedford-Park-inspired idea of an Irish National Theatre (later to become the Abbey Theatre), provided the cultural backdrop for the independent Ireland that was to come into being in the 20th century (an idea whose time had come along with a host of other Bedford-Park debating issues such as vegetarianism, Indian independence, female emancipation, women’s suffrage…). And his poetry and plays would provided the artistic impetus for much that we’ve seen in 20c and 21c theatre, where drama threw away its stage trappings and merged with modern dance.
The Prince of Wales recently visited Yeats’ grave at his great-grandfather’s church in Drumcliff, County Sligo, and used Yeat’s line about peace coming ‘dropping slow’. Yeats represents the Anglo-Irish background that so fostered cultural development in both islands and had a foot in both Ireland and England emotionally and culturally. But he is also a striking example of the ability of London in general, and Bedford Park in particular, to offer a meeting place and fostering-home for culture, the arts, politics, not just for all the people in Britian and Ireland but from all around the world.
The statue ‘plan’ is to create an ad-hoc committee of poets, actors, painters, politicians, parishioners, ambassadors and enthusiasts, Yeatsians & Bedford Park-ians (many of whom have already been in touch and expressed their enthusiasm) to explore the possibility of raising a Yeats statue close to communal heart of Bedford Park that is the beautiful Arts&Crafts St Michael’s church… And starting from the 150th anniversary of his birth (2015) we should be able to complete this project in time for the 80th anniversary of Yeats’ death (2019).
All queries, offers of support etc via my website
June 26, 2015