2016 is the 100th anniversary of the publication of ‘The Golden Arrow’, the first novel of one of Shropshire’s greatest writers, Mary Webb. Her life and work are firmly centred in her native county and the Mary Webb Society are celebrating with a programme of events and a special exhibition at Shrewsbury Museum.
‘The Golden Arrow’ is based on an old legend where lovers earn good fortune by finding a mythical arrow on Palm Sunday on Pontesford Hill. Mary’s work is full of folklore and local colour and this exhibition explores how her literature links to the landscape, illustrated with paintings from the museum collections and images from photographer Gordon Dickins.
In Mary’s world Shrewsbury was Silverton, the Stiperstones are the Diafol Mountains, Lord’s Hill is God’s Little Mountain, Long Mynd is Wilderhope. The Society felt it was important to share Mary’s picture of Shropshire and commissioned local artist Katy Alston to produce a map of the Mary Webb Country for the exhibition.
Mary was born in Leighton, lived much of her childhood in Much Wenlock before marrying and moving to Pontesbury and finally building her beloved Spring Cottage on Lyth Hill. She suffered from Graves Disease, a thyroid disorder which caused her ill health and led to her premature death at the age of 46 years. Due to her illness Mary was reluctant to have her photograph taken and in the exhibition there is a rare portrait of her donated to the museum by Winifred Downes who had been her 3½ year old bridesmaid and was daughter of the family’s gardener.
The exhibition opens on 7 March 2016 and will have a writer in residence during the course of its run. Lisa Blower will be focusing on Mary Webb’s Gone to Earth in the Museum’s book club and running a 6 week novel writing course, whilst working on and sharing the development of her own novel. Other events include a talk as an introduction to Mary Webb on 18 March, on Mary Webb’s Shropshire on 31 March, and Mary Webb family craft activities on 9 April and 21 May. In the 1940s a film was produced of her novel Gone to Earth which was partly shot in Much Wenlock with locals as extras, and there will be a special chance to see it screened on 20 April at the Old Market Hall Cinema in Shrewsbury.
For further information
Contact Sue Hughes exhibition curator and committee member of the Mary Webb Society email@example.com.
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