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The Word - News in Brief

West Somerset Steam Railway - Bringing the Arts to the Countryside in 2009

Photo by Alan Turner
The iconic West Somerset Railway (WSR) travels through 20 miles of lovely scenery from Bishops Lydeard, through the countryside to the sea. More than just a railway, it links isolated rural communities and attracts over a thousand dedicated volunteers to keep the trains running and the countryside stations open to the public.

In 2009, the WSR will be developing its first ever Arts Programme. The WSR Association Manager, Susan Kaufman, said, "It's a privilege to look after this railway; the steam engines are working antiques, and the stations reflect an important aspect of English rural heritage. We are looking for Patrons and artists who are inspired by the heritage of this railway and the volunteering spirit that ensures its future."

A fund raising dinner and vintage film for the WSR 2009 Arts Programme is planned for Saturday, 4 Oct. The evening will start with a Champagne reception, live period music, and progress to three courses of fine dining prepared by local chef Jane Rowse. This quintessentially British film is a product of Ealing Studios, and begins with a devastating train crash on the Liverpool to Euston line. The action is then taken back over the previous weeks to tell four separate stories involving an engine driver and his family, a romantic young couple, a Shakespearian actor, and a philandering concert hall conductor. A must-see film for railway enthusiasts shot entirely on location), it also gives an atmospheric glimpse of the drab life of post-war London. If you enjoy steam trains and period drama - this film is for you! We will be screening an original film print with period projectors - not video or DVD - (Shown by kind permission of Canal Plus Image (UK) Ltd and Optimum Releasing.)

Every person who attends this fundraising event will be named a Patron of the WSR Arts Programme. We are hoping to attract Patrons to the scheme who are drawn to the heritage aspects of the railway, and have ideas for promoting the community service value of the WSR Association through the Arts Programme. Patrons will also be invited to support and participate in WSR special events throughout the year.

As a pilot scheme this year, the WSRA plans to invite three artists to the Autumn Steam Gala, 2-5 Oct, and have a special 'Patrons Exhibition' of their collective works on Bishops Lydeard station during the Somerset in Autumn Weekend, 25-26 Oct. Our Patrons will then be called upon to direct where the scheme goes from there, and shape the future events. Ideas under consideration include a resident artist for 2009, but the scheme is not meant to be limited to just the visual arts. We would welcome ideas from all segments of the visual and performing arts.

The progress of the West Somerset Railway from an abandoned line to a premier tourist attraction is one of the great success stories in the Southwest, and we are expecting the Arts Programme to be a highlight of the 2009 season.

For details, please contact Susan at 01823 431311, e-mail, or write to The Railway Station, Bishops Lydeard, Taunton, Somerset TA4 3BX.

West Somerset Railway Association Booking form
Main PaPAS page