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Julia Bowen

A PASSION FOR HISTORY & CULTURE LIES BEHIND WESSEX WEEK 2023

A PASSION for music, history and the arts has led volunteer Julia Bowen to step up again to stage Wessex Week in Malmesbury this autumn.

Julia (73) has been alongside her colleague historian Tony McAleavy and the rest of her team, organising a whole week of events to celebrate the region’s history, culture and art through the centuries with a particular emphasis on Malmesbury and the Anglo Saxon period. The events take place in the town between Saturday October 14 and Saturday October 21.

The ‘week’ came about after the BBC ran its history week from the town for several years and then pulled out in 2016. Julia, with others, decided to organise events themselves. 

“It had been so successful that when the BBC decided to move to Winchester, we wanted to create our own event. In that first year it was such a success and we made a small profit so we re-invested it for an event in 2017 and the rest, as they say, is history.

“Over the years we’ve had some wonderful speakers including historian and author Tom Holland, historian and broadcaster Michael Wood and Dr Janina Ramirez who is a cultural historian, broadcaster and author.”

Julia is well known in Malmesbury for her voluntary work and is heavily involved in local cultural and musical activities. She was Malmesbury’s second lady mayor and she also chairs Malmesbury & District Twinning Association. 

During her working life, she was a music teacher, particularly of’ ‘cello and bass, for Wiltshire Music Service and later became Deputy Head of South Gloucestershire Music Service , taking her colleagues over the world to learn about music from other cultures. Her late husband John was also a well-known artist and fashion designer, who was heavily involved in the history and culture of Malmesbury and wider Wiltshire. Julia’s own love of music, culture, the arts and performance is undimmed. 

“Music is in my DNA and I come from a long line of string players. My great grandfather made and taught the violin and a great uncle was a ‘ cellist in the Halle. I have always been a performing musician, particularly voice and it very much defines who I am.”

Unsurprisingly music features again during the 2023 line-up of events:

  • The Story of Malmesbury Abbey 670 to 1539 by Tony McAleavy (7pm Saturday Oct 14 in the Abbey).
  • Guided walk & talk by Campbell Ritchie on 900 Years of The Monks at Malmesbury Abbey (10.30am Sunday October 15 from Cross Hayes)
  • A free exhibition ‘Archives, Maces and Bird’s-Eye-View’ – a rare opportunity to explore the archives of the Warden and Freemen of Malmesbury including the Queen Anne silver maces. The Warden & Freemen of Malmesbury is an organisation dating back to the time of King Athelstan which is still active today (Sunday October 15 10.30am to 4pm Warden and Freeman Office in Market Lane). 
  • Malmesbury & Queens of Medieval England (talk & supper) led by Tony McAleavey – (Wednesday October 18 6pm at The Old Bell Hotel, separate tickets can also be purchased just for the talk)
  • The Story of the Warden & Freemen of Malmesbury with Richard Robins, Capital Burgess (Thursday October 19 7pm, Malmesbury Town Hall)
  • Sounds of Wessex The Enigma of Folk Song – with Shan and Martin Graebe which will include singing and live recordings (Friday October 20 from 7pm Malmesbury Town Hall)

One very special event to close the week on Saturday October 21 will be led by senior archaeologist Richard Osgood MBE who will share the story of The Shallow Grave which relates to the discovery and excavation of a Saxon burial on private land near Tetbury.

Richard said: “Gloucestershire in the 7th Century was a liminal zone; frontier land. Traces of this age are limited and yet a Cotswold field has recently yielded some very important finds, evidence for a settlement which has associated burials – one of which was provided with a series of impressive grave goods. Located by a metal detectorist, the site was investigated further by Gloucestershire Council and then by participants on the Operation Nightingale programme using archaeology to assist the recovery of military veterans. 

“Hence, Exercise ‘Shallow Grave’ was formed. My talk will explore the site in the Cotswolds and then draw in recent parallels from other sites in Wessex including on the chalklands of the military training area of Salisbury Plain.”

Tickets for any of these events are available online via the Wessex Week website https://wessex-week.org and there are some also available for purchase at the Tourist Information Centre based at Malmesbury Town Hall.

Fiona Scott Media Consultancy Bath

Scott Media

Scott Media is run by a UK-based journalist with more than 20 years' experience in the media - print, radio and television.

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