(above l-r: Rishi Sunak MP, Richard and Christine Tuer, and Ann and Stuart Guy, studying the Roll of Honour created by Penny Ellis for Aysgarth ecclesiastical parish.
Over 1,000 people including school children participated in the Festival of Remembrance events hosted by Aysgarth church from November 9 to 12. (Click on the photo above to see more pictures of the festival)
‘That’s the value of what you have done – bringing together the many communities in an act of remembrance and a mark of remembering and paying tribute to the sacrifice of those who gave up their freedom so that we might enjoy ours today,’ Richmondshire MP Rishi Sunak said when he officially opened the festival of Friday November 9.
Mr Sunak took time to study the Roll of Honour created by Penny Ellis which listed 193 men and women from Aysgarth, Bishopdale, Carperby, Thoralby, Thornton Rust, West Burton and Walden who served during WW1. The stories of some of them were told in the festival exhibition. In her address at the Remembrance Service on Sunday Juliet Barker said: ‘If our Festival of Remembrance does nothing else, I hope it pays appropriate tribute to the so-called “ordinary “ men and women of our dale who, not of their own choosing, were called upon to do extra-ordinary things.’
The Vicar, the Rev Lynn Purvis-Lee, praised what she described as the amazing team which had planned and prepared the festival and especially thanked the sponsors. These were: Aysgarth and District Parish Council, the Richmondshire Area Partnership Fund, Tennants of Leyburn, The Wensleydale and Swaledale Quaker Meeting, Lambert’s Florists of Leyburn, Outhwaite Ropemakers of Hawes, RCP Parking Ltd, the Wensleydale Creamery and Campbells of Leyburn.
Lynn thanked those in the parish who had knitted poppies and made the paper ones for the ‘waterfall’ of poppies which cascaded over the altar. This began with 1,100 poppies and grew throughout the weekend as visitors made more.
Juliet Barker chaired the committee which worked for more than a year on the arrangements for the festival.This included an inspiring flower festival, organised by Barbara Hadlow, with floral displays depicting the battles and poets of WW1 created by the ladies of the church’s congregation and friends from Wensleydale Flower Club. Many gasped with admiration as they entered the church and saw Hazel Oliver’s ‘War Horse’ (below). And that sense of wonder continued as they viewed all the other floral displays.
(Click on the photo of the ‘War Horse’ to see more pictures of the Flower Festival.)
On the Saturday afternoon over 250 people attended what many described as a brilliant and very moving Concert of WW1 Words and Music in the church. The music was provided by the Hawes Silver Band, the Aysgarth Singers and the children of The Songbirds community choir based in West Burton.
The music was interspersed with readings under the headings ‘The oubreak of war’, ‘Fraternising with the enemy’, ‘Life and death in the trenches’, ‘The horrors of war’, ‘Women at war’ and ‘The Armistice’. Many of the readings had considerable impact because those quoted were ordinary soldiers rather than poets. Juliet Barker, who was one of the readers, said: ‘We have deliberately chosen to use a larger number of less familiar pieces which voice the first-hand experience of the ordinary men and women who lived through The Great War.’ The other readers were Sophie Barker, Heather Limbach and David Poole.
The end of the first half was especially moving as, after everyone sang Lead Kindly Light the lights were turned out and there was silence as the Remembrance Candle was lit.
I especially liked the fact that the concert did not celebrate war but rather celebrated the human spirit.
On Monday November 12, 90 school children from Askrigg, Bainbridge and West Burton schools (many with their parents and grandparents) spent over an hour at the church.
This gave them an opportunity to see and touch the WWI memorabilia brought along by a curator of the Green Howards Museum in Richmond, and also to find some of the gravestones in the churchyard on which the soldiers of two world wars have been remembered. For the latter they used the pictorial guide which I produced for the festival.
Throughout Saturday, Sunday and Monday there was a steady flow of visitors with some returning to spend more time in the exhibition and to enjoy the floral displays and excellent homemade refreshments. The exhibition created by Penny Ellis and myself will remain in the church after the festival.
The Roll of Honour can be viewed on the WW1 section of Penny’s website, Thoralby Through Time.
Photos copyright Pip Pointon