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. They’ll celebrate the region’s history, culture and art through the centuries. But putting 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.

Wessex Week in Wiltshire - Julia Bowen, one of the two founder volunteers of Wessex Week
Julia Bowen, one of the two founder volunteers of Wessex Week

How it began

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 that 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. They’ve included historian and author Tom Holland, historian and broadcaster Michael Wood and Dr Janina Ramirez – a cultural historian, broadcaster and author.’

Well known

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

During her working life, she was a music teacher for Wiltshire Music Service. She 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, involved in the history and culture of Malmesbury and wider Wiltshire. Julia’s own love of music, culture, the arts and performance continues 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.’

It’s not surprising then that music features again during the 2023 line-up of events.

The events

  1. The Story of Malmesbury Abbey 670 to 1539 by Tony McAleavy (7pm Saturday Oct 14 in the Abbey).

  2. Guided walk & talk by Campbell Ritchie on 900 Years of The Monks at Malmesbury Abbey (10.30am Sunday October 15 from Cross Hayes)

  3. A free exhibition ‘Archives, Maces and Bird’s-Eye-View’. This offers 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. It’s still active today (Sunday October 15 10.30am to 4pm Warden and Freeman Office in Market Lane).

  4. Malmesbury & Queens of Mediaeval England (talk & supper) led by Tony McAleavey. Wednesday October 18 6pm at The Old Bell Hotel. You can get separate tickets just for the talk.

  5. The Story of the Warden & Freemen of Malmesbury with Richard Robins, Capital Burgess. Thursday October 19 7pm, Malmesbury Town Hall.

One very special event to close the week on Saturday October 21 will have senior archaeologist Richard Osgood MBE leading. He’ll share the story of The Shallow Grave. It 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. There’s limited traces of this age. But yet a Cotswold field has recently yielded some very important finds. There’s evidence for a settlement which has associated burials. One of them was provided with a series of impressive grave goods. Located by a metal detectorist, Gloucestershire Council further investigated the site. Also participants on the Operation Nightingale programme. They used archeology to assist the recovery of military veterans.

‘Hence, the formation of Exercise ‘Shallow Grave’. 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.’

To get tickets

Tickets for any of these events are available online via the Wessex Week website https://wessex-week.org

And there are some also available to buy at the tourist information centre based at Malmesbury Town Hall.

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