W B Yeats Bedford Park Artwork Project
Celebrating Yeats in Bedford Park
Nobel-Prize-winning poet, WB Yeats, though inspired by Irish legend, landscape and longing, actually spent two-thirds of his young life among the London roadways and pavements grey in his much-loved poem, The Lake Isle of Innisfree, written here in Bedford Park and reflecting an exile’s urban/London experience crucial to shaping both Yeats’s (and Ireland’s) identity, and English literature.
Yeats spent most of his London years here with his Irish migrant family in Bedford Park (Chiswick, West London), the world’s first-ever garden-suburb, whose diverse, Bohemian, artists’-colony residents, fostered the young poet’s exceptional creative genius. Yet, until now, the only poet brought up in England to win the Nobel Prize has had no monument in England.
Though many authors, artists, actors, architects and others made Bedford Park their home after achieving fame, Yeats is significant in having been brought up here and inspired into creativity — and international fame, along with his brother Jack B Yeats — by its uniquely Utopian, progressive, aesthetic Arts & Crafts ambience.
What the Artwork Project Celebrates…
Conrad Shawcross’s #EnwroughtLight artwork and our arts/education/heritage poetry-places trail “Discover Bedford Park with WB Yeats” together create a rich visitor-experience which…
- Celebrates poetry and drama, and Yeats’s poems and plays in particular
- Honours a local resident, a schoolboy from a migrant family, who went on to become a major international literary figure
- Highlights Bedford Park’s role in fostering Yeats’s Irish poetic genius
- Inspires local young people, students and schoolchildren to enjoy, engage with, and participate in, poetry, drama and visual arts
- Encourages the West London community to take pride in the area’s unique cultural and artistic heritage
- Invites Londoners and visitors to discover/explore a major 19c crucible of 20c culture
- Validates the input of poets and poetry to public life, Promotes contemporary art, Improves the quality of our public spaces, Enhances the local environment
- Emphasises the importance of fellow-artists and supportive arts-communities in catalysing creativity
- Acknowledges migrant communities’ vital role in creating/enriching Britain’s cultural life while benefiting from London as a network/hub in which to develop their own art, ideas and identity
- Marks the mutually-vital and ongoing Irish-British cultural interaction exemplified by Yeats (and Swift, Goldsmith, Sheridan, the Brontës, Thos. Moore, Wilde, Bram Stoker, GBS and more, past and present)
- Remembers Yeats’s own multicultural interest in Eastern teaching/spirituality and his friendships/collaborations with Mohini Chatterjee, Helena Blavatsky, Sarojini Naidu, Rabindranath Tagore, Shri Purohit Swami, Annie Besant and Florence Farr (the latter two moving to,and doing vital political and educational work in, India and Sri Lanka)
- Focuses on the role of women in Yeats’s life and art (his craft-industry-founding sisters Lily and Lolly, his mother Susan’s love of Irish lore and legend, May Morris and her embroidery, revolutionary Maud Gonne, as well as Blavatsky, Farr and Besant, above) and in creating Bedford Park’s forward-thinking ethos (uniquely for the 1890s the Bedford Park Club welcomed women and men as equals)
- Recognises the area’s surprisingly diverse and cosmopolitan range of residents, including French painters, a Ukrainian freedom-fighter, an American anti-slavery campaigner and one of Britain’s first two Asian MPs
- Underlines Bedford Park’s historic significance as a forward-thinking and artistic community, the world’s first garden suburb, and a model, internationally, for healthy and holistic housing development
- Provides a London place-of-literary-pilgrimage for poets, academics, Yeatsians and all who love art and culture, from Britain, Ireland, US, and around the world, bringing them to the shops and cafés at Bedford Park Corner, Turnham Green and Chiswick High Road to support the local economy
- Spotlights the revitalised Bedford Park and Turnham Green Terrace ‘Culture Quarter’, as a centre of contemporary creativity including Arts Ed, the new Chiswick Playhouse, Chiswick Book Festival and Bedford Park Festival and much more
- Complements Chiswick Timeline’s Turnham Green Terrace artwork nearby, outlining Chiswick’s literary history
The signage by the artwork explains a little about WB and the talented Yeats family (painter father, John Butler Yeats, artist sisters, Lily and Lolly, and brother Jack B Yeats, Ireland’s greatest 20c painter), on Bedford Park itself as a social-experiment/architectural-gem, on the Arts & Crafts movement, and on the area’s many fascinating poets, painters, playwrights, publishers, philosophers, folklorists and anarchists and offers, at the click of a QR code, a guided tour around some great Yeats poetry-places in Bedford Park and beyond!
Unveiled by poet and former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, on 6th September 2022, just yards from Yeats’s boyhood London home at the ‘gateway’ to the world’s-first garden suburb with its beautifully conserved Arts & Crafts environment, the dazzling Yeats-inspired sculpture, #EnwroughtLight, by artist (and youngest Royal Academician), Conrad Shawcross RA envisions Yeats’s lines (set in silver in a Purbeck Stone plinth):
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light
The words are from Yeats’s He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven, partly inspired by the poet’s unrequited love for Maud Gonne whom he first met here in Bedford Park, partly by his dream, as an aspiring artist, of creating works of great beauty, but also by his sister Lily’s Arts-&-Crafts tapestry-work for Wm. Morris nearby, and by Bedford Park’s underlying ethos of bringing aesthetics into the everyday as part of a work/life/art “balance”.
For many, Shawcross’s spiralling gyre will invoke flocks of birds in flight (Yeats’s poetry is rich with avian instances from rooks and white sea-birds to swans, and nightingales…
Bob Geldof on Yeats and Bedford Park
Passionate about Yeats, and poetry, Bob Geldof supports our Bedford Park celebration of Yeats:
“Bedford Park is where the National Poet understood what it was to be impoverished, alien, exiled, became obsessed with a woman who would haunt his life and give rise to the greatest poetry of the 20th century. Surrounded by his extraordinary family and his radically revolutionary neighbours, Bedford Park whipped the beautiful young poet into the maelstrom of poetry that would give rise to a nation.”
Discover Bedford Park with WB Yeats
To explore the young Yeats’s unique London neighbourhood with us, listen to 2022 Oscar- and BAFTA-nominated actor (and project patron and inspiration!) Ciarán Hinds on video above, then head for Turnham Green Station on London’s District Line. Turn right on leaving the station and cross to Conrad Shawcross’s dazzling #EnwoughtLight (you can’t miss it!), click on the information sign’s QR code, and allow your smartphone or tablet to guide you around ten @YeatsBedfordPk poetry-places (or you can pop in and out, pick and choose) with images, short-info talks, and Ciarán’s readings of great location-specific Yeats poems at each spot. Main walk, eight locations, approx. 1.3 miles: allow 5 minutes at each location and it should take 60 minutes. Final two locations are a little further afield by the Thames and involve an extra three miles.
Information sign at #EnwroughtLight, designed by Belinda Ashton as a project donation.
Yeats’s Nobel Prize Centenary 1923-2023
Thu 14 Dec, 7.30pm: Inaugural WB Yeats Bedford Park Lecture by Roy Foster
To celebrate WB Yeats’s acceptance of the Nobel Prize for Literature in Stockholm one hundred years ago on 10th December 1923, we’re delighted to welcome his biographer, Professor Roy Foster, to the poet & dramatist’s boyhood London neighbourhood (to the Yeats family’s parish church, in fact), to deliver the first WB Yeats Bedford Park Lecture.
R.F. Foster FBA FRHistS FRSL is former Carroll Professor at Hertford College, Oxford and author, as Yeats’s official biographer, of the two-volume WB Yeats, A Life — The Apprentice Mage 1865-1914 and The Arch Poet 1915-1939
Thanks to an overwhelming public response we raised almost £200K covering initial infrastructure, professional costs, surveys, and planning application, the artwork itself including groundwork, foundations, plinth/base and engraving, delivery and installation, the creation of schools' Yeats/Bedford-Park workbooks, public lectures, an unveiling event and reception for guests and community groups, a promotional video and the development of our Discover Bedford Park with WB Yeats smartphone #visitorexperience.
Your donation now will pay for ongoing development at the artwork site (security, lighting and CCTV), help cover some three years' increased costs since we set our crowdfund targets in 2020, and help us celebrate Yeats's Nobel Centenary Year with our range of 2023 events, as well as both spreading the word worldwide about London's latest literary landmark/visitor-experience, and furthering our work with schools and community groups!
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Thanks to all our many backers who include: the George Frampton Fund, Dukes Education, Embassy of Ireland (London), Embassy of Ireland (Washington), London Borough of Hounslow, London Borough of Ealing, The Josephine Hart Poetry Foundation (The Poetry Hour), Bedford Park Society, Bedford Park Festival, Chiswick Book Festival, Victoria Miro Gallery, Irish Literary Society, Saint Michael and All Angels Church (Bedford Park), London Buddhist Vihara, Chiswick Pier Trust, Lab 99 Web Design, The Post Room Café, Savills (Estate Agents), Theatre at the Tabard, Horton and Garton (Estate Agents), The Tabard, Innisfree Housing Association, WB Yeats Society of New York, WB Yeats Society of Savannah GA, Jimmy Page and Scarlett Sabet, Rowan Williams, Bob Geldof, Marie Heaney, Jeremy Vine, Carmen Callil, Anne-Marie Fyfe, Polly Devlin, Tom Paulin, Roy Foster, Joan McBreen, Edna and Michael Longley, Fergal Keane, Patrick Corcoran, Miles Parker, Tom Sleigh, Anthony Byrne, Frances O'Leary, Kate McAlister, Kevin McNally, Phyllis Logan, Shevaun Wilder, Ciarán Hinds, Martin and Joyce Enright, Marina Warner, Joseph Hassett, Ron Schuchard, Nessa O'Mahony, Belinda Ashton, plus countless poets, actors, academics, architects, Yeats fanatics, and lovers of all the arts, and literally hundreds of local Bedford Park residents and others local and international, all listed on our two crowdfund websites:
The Lake Isle of Innisfree
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles
Nine bean–rows will I have there, a hive for the
And live alone in the bee–loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the
cricket sings ;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
Project supported by Embassy of Ireland (Great Britain)