Stars including Sir Daniel Day-Lewis have helped relaunch a special collection of books and other items celebrating the work of war poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon.

Date posted

2 November 2016


Last updated

19 March 2020

Five high profile faces from the arts and creative world have lent their voices to Edinburgh Napier’s relaunched War Poets Collection - the Oscar-winning actor Sir Daniel Day-Lewis; Olivier-winning stage and screen actor Nathaniel Parker; poet, broadcaster and comedian Ian McMillan; journalist and broadcaster Allan Little; and the award-winning author Dr Pat Barker.

Housed within the University’s Craiglockhart campus, the revamped space has been unveiled to mark 100 years since the Craiglockhart Hydropathic was first used as a military hospital to treat shell shocked officers during the First World War. 

A newly created bronze sculpture of Wilfred Owen, the first of its kind, has also been installed in the enhanced Collection and a poignant light projection, paying tribute to the building’s history during the Great War, will illuminate the façade of the campus building from 2-4 November.

Sir Daniel Day-Lewis has recited seven of Wilfred Owen’s most famous works specifically for the Collection, recording versions of The Send-Off, Sonnet, Dulce et Decorum Est, Anthem for Doomed Youth, Greater Love, Soldier’s Dream and Futility. 

His association with Wilfred Owen’s work stems back to his father, Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis, who edited Owen’s poetry in the 1960s. Sir Daniel’s mother, Jill Balcon, was a vice-president of the Wilfred Owen Association.

The works of Owen’s friend and mentor Siegfried Sassoon have been captured by actor Nathaniel Parker. Nathaniel played Wilfred Owen in Derek Jarman’s War Requiem, a 1989 film adaptation of Benjamin Britten’s film of the same name.

A selection of Robert Graves’ poetry has been recited by the journalist and broadcaster, Allan Little with Yorkshireman Ian McMillan adding his own unique interpretation to a selection of anonymous poetry from The Hydra; journal of Craiglockhart War Hospital. 

Dr Pat Barker, author of the novel, Regeneration, set in Craiglockhart War Hospital, has recorded a further six poems by officers who were treated there, including The Somme Valley 1917 by Canadian poet Frank Prewett.

The playlist of recorded poetry, which can be listened to through two handsets within the space, will conclude with a haunting version of The Lads of Quintinshill 1915 composed and played by musician Thoren Ferguson. Thoren plays the Wilfred Owen violin which is made from a branch of a sycamore tree from the grounds of Craiglockhart campus itself.

Catherine Walker, curator of Edinburgh Napier’s War Poets Collection, said: “Sir Daniel, Nathaniel, Allan, Ian and Pat have all given their time and expertise to support this project.  Their distinctive voices have really brought the poems to life, giving our visitors an opportunity to hear and fully appreciate the poetry. We are extremely grateful to them.”

Peter Owen, nephew of Wilfred Owen, has highlighted the importance of the War Poet’s Collection. He said: “Craiglockhart War Poet’s Collection is at the very heart of the meeting between Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. 

“This meeting at Craiglockhart which led to Wilfred’s poetry of the Great War is made so evident by their War Poets Collection. Without a doubt Craiglockhart is where Wilfred’s poetry began.”
The War Poets Collection Relaunch
The enhanced collection has been funded through the generous support of The Binks Trust and other key donors. 

The sculpture of Wilfred Owen has been donated to the War Poets Collection by award-winning artist Anthony Padgett. It was created by the artist, in consultation with the Wilfred Owen Association. This piece is the first of five sculptures of the literary great which will be placed in key locations, symbolic to Wilfred Owen’s life, across the UK.

Sculptor Anthony Padgett said: “The sculpture was created as part of my artist residency at the Museum of Lancashire and I’m thrilled that it has found a home as one of the new additions to the War Poets Collection at Edinburgh Napier’s Craiglockhart campus. Owen’s time at Craiglockhart had a big impact in his life and his poetry so it’s fantastic that this has been further recognised with what I hope is a fitting tribute to the man himself.”

A special light projection, which will take place each night from 2-4 November at 7.30pm in the grounds of Craiglockhart campus, will also help mark the relaunched collection and the centenary of the Craiglockhart War Hospital. Open to the public and free to attend, the light show will feature a host of dramatic images relating to Craiglockhart War Hospital, projected onto the front facade of the building as it stands today.