The World Bench Project

The World Bench Project

Oxford, United Kingdom

Category: Great Story worldbench_mary1.jpg
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‘Have you listened to silence? / All confusion of sound left out, / Voices, distractions, all / Of no more depth than the troubled surface / Of a stirred up stream?’ (from ‘Silence’ by Mary Hampden-Jackson)

I found a bench behind a closed down building in Jericho, Oxford, which was the starting point for my project ‘Opening the Heart of Jericho’ (link). The plaque on the bench read: ‘In Memory of Mary Hampden-Jackson / teacher and poet / who lived here / 1971-1980′. The plaque was so worn it was almost unreadable. Her books were out of print, and no one in Jericho seemed to remember her. After I wrote a letter to the local paper, two of Mary’s former pupils got in touch. They remembered a slight, unassuming, very private woman. Thin and frail-looking. Eccentric, ‘a free spirit’. A writer of gentle poetry observing the natural world around her. I persuaded the council to rescue Mary’s bench and put it in Mount Place where there’s a footbridge over the canal and trees shade a small square, and people come and go. I commissioned a shiny new plaque and on a sunny summer evening in 2010 a group of people came together to re-dedicate the bench with a reading of Mary’s poems.

Oxford, 9.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings

This post was submitted by Clare Cochrane.

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