Solihull Arts Complex

W.H. Auden Festival

W.H. Auden Festival

Festival events celebrating the life and works of renowned poet W.H. Auden.

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In Solihull, we treasure W.H. Auden’s connection to the town but have not made much of it. Auden came here as a very young child and his family lived here during the first decade of his life, which coincided with the First World War. This new, annual festival, which is a collaboration between SMBC and SolihullBID and programmed by Parrabbola, explores his artistic output through interpretations of his work, as well that of his collaborators and contemporaries. 

We want to focus on the ‘Art For All’ ethos, bringing the arts to audiences of all ages in a myriad of different ways. These will include immersive street theatre performances, live readings of poetry, film screenings, talks, music performances and a museum style interactive Auden installation as well as participatory activity for all.  In this first festival, we’re looking particularly at Auden as a young man – during the 1930s.

FEBRUARY 18TH

All About Auden
Touchwood Atrium

Discover the story of WH Auden’s life and the wonders of his work. Not only a poet, but a man of social action and immense personality, WH Auden is an undisputable world figure, who grew up in Solihull. Find out more by visiting the displays in Touchwood Atrium throughout the duration of the festival.


The Poet’Tree
3pm – 4.30pm – The Core – Open to the public

A chance for everyone to discover their inner poet and to contribute to our festival collection by writing a poem and hanging it on the tree.  Just turn up.


Auden and the 1930s - a time of liberation and repression, an Illustrated Talk
7.30pm – in the Studio at The Core Theatre

Secrets and sacrifices, the battle between right and wrong, and a desire to be heard – Auden lived his life in the 1930s through these challenges. Hear Professor Janet Montefiore (University of Kent, WH Auden Society) examine these times of upheaval with an eye towards WH Auden’s personal experience. There will be some poetry readings and discussion, as well as a Q&A.  The event is free but please book tickets to reserve your seat.

 

FEBRUARY 19TH

All About Auden
Touchwood Atrium

Discover the story of WH Auden’s life and the wonders of his work. Not only a poet, but a man of social action and immense personality, WH Auden is an undisputable world figure, who grew up in Solihull. Find out more by visiting the displays in Touchwood Atrium throughout the duration of the festival.


The Poet’Tree
10am – 4pm – The Core – Open to the public

A chance for everyone to discover their inner poet and to contribute to our festival collection by writing a poem and hanging it on the tree.  Just turn up.


Vintage Producers’ Market
9am – 5pm

On Saturday and Sunday, the High Street will be home to a 1930s themed vintage producers’ market, featuring fresh bakes, classic tipples and handmade gifts from the very best local producers.  Cancelled due to high winds.


Words on the Street
12pm – 4pm– Town Centre

Prepare to be enchanted and delighted by poetry, on your very own high street. Our engaging actors offer you a private performance of their very favourite Auden works. This is an experience you don’t want to miss.


Conveniently Married
Shows at 3pm on Sat and Sun – Studio at The Core

Throughout history, humans go out of their way to help others, even in the face of unseemly horror. How do we manage it? Why do we do it? And when all seems hopeless, how do we continually find new ways to hope? A promenade theatre (see below) performance exploring the marriage arranged by WH Auden between his friend, fellow writer, and Dorridge resident John Hampson Simpson, and the German actress Therese Giehse at Solihull Registrar Office on May 20th, 1936. 

PLEASE NOTE: The promenade show, starting at Solihull Station has now been moved indoors to the Studio at The Core due to heavy rain and wind, which will make performance and sound too difficult for all concerned.  As there is no alternative venue for the Sunday 10am these ticketholders have been swapped to other performances and 10am show is cancelled.  We apologise for any inconvenience, but looking forward to audiences in the warm, dry Studio space - no tickets are required just turn up!


Pop Up Performances
2pm- 4pm – Solihull Town Centre (various locations)

Extracts from plays and letters – texts from WH Auden, Christopher Isherwood, and the Birmingham Circle and more will be gracing the town centre – ranging from intimate and heart-warming to jovial and energetic. Four 15-minute performances will be popping up every quarter of an hour at various locations throughout the town centre in these two hours, so it’s easy to see all four.


Berlin in the 1930s
7.30pm – The Core Theatre

Music from Berlin of the 1920s and 1930s, which might have inspired Auden’s own musical theatre and opera collaborations. Songs by Kurt Weill including the Threepenny Opera, and other Berlin Cabaret composers, are paired with extracts from Benjamin Britten’s American operetta Paul Bunyan, for which Auden wrote the libretto.  Tickets cost £12 from The Core Theatre Box Office or book online.

 

FEBRUARY 20TH

All About Auden
Touchwood Atrium

Discover the story of WH Auden’s life and the wonders of his work. Not only a poet, but a man of social action and immense personality, WH Auden is an undisputable world figure, who grew up in Solihull. Find out more by visiting the displays in Touchwood Atrium throughout the duration of the festival.
 

Vintage Producers’ Market
9am – 5pm

On Saturday and Sunday, the High Street will be home to a 1930s themed vintage producers’ market, featuring fresh bakes, classic tipples and handmade gifts from the very best local producers.


Conveniently Married
Show at 3 pm – Studio at The Core

Throughout history, humans go out of their way to help others, even in the face of unseemly horror. How do we manage it? Why do we do it? And when all seems hopeless, how do we continually find new ways to hope? A promenade theatre performance exploring the marriage arranged by WH Auden between his friend, fellow writer, and Dorridge resident John Hampson Simpson, and the German actress Therese Giehse at Solihull Registrar Office on May 20th, 1936. 

PLEASE NOTE: see above details about wet weather venue and ticketing.


Pop Up Performances
2pm- 4pm – Solihull Town Centre (various locations)

Extracts from plays and letters – texts from WH Auden, Christopher Isherwood, and the Birmingham Circle and more will be gracing the town centre – ranging from intimate and heart-warming to jovial and energetic. Four 15-minute performances will be popping up every quarter of an hour at various locations throughout the town centre in these two hours, so it’s easy to see all four.


Mixed Programme Film Event
5pm – The Core Theatre

Join us for a mixed programme of short films from Auden’s life and works. Featuring the acclaimed documentaries, Night Mail (1936 - runs for 25mins) and Coal Face (1935  - runs for 11mins). Both contain poetry by Auden and scores by Benjamin Britten. A third film called Runner (runs for 10mins)  completes this informative series.  The programme, lasting around 46mins will commence at 5pm then again at 6pm. This interesting film series is free. Stay on if you wish for a further film:- see below.   Please note, the films were made nearly 100 years ago and some scenes are considered inappropriate in our current times.  Please ask for details prior to the show.


Four Weddings and a Funeral
7.30pm – The Core Theatre

This well-loved romantic comedy from 1994, starring Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell is ranked one of the BFI’s Top 100 British films from the 20th century. It follows a group of friends and their adventures in love and prominently features WH Auden’s poem Funeral Blues. Bring a tissue and a loved one and join us as we celebrate Auden on the silver screen. CLICK TO BUY TICKETS (£5 each)

 

FEBRUARY 21ST

Lunchtime Birthday Concert
1pm – St. Alphege Church

Happy Birthday WH Auden! On what would have been his 115th birthday, we celebrate the collaboration between two great English artists, WH Auden and Benjamin Britten, in a very special song recital, given in the church where the Auden family were parishioners during their time in Solihull. Programme to include the song cycles: On This Island, Fish in the Unruffled Lakes and The Cabaret Songs.


The Poet’Tree
10am – 4pm – The Core – Open to the public

A chance for everyone to discover their inner poet and to contribute to our festival collection by writing a poem and hanging it on the tree.

Image licensed by Solihull BID

Friday 18th - Monday 21st February 2022

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