Save Europe Now/ Friends of Enemies. (working titles)
I am the grand-daughter of George and Kathleen Hooson, who farmed in and around Ruthin from the 1920s until the 1960s. Their farms included Caerfallen, outside Ruthin, Rhiwlas, on Moel famau and they finally retired to a house called Fir Grove, also on the edge of Ruthin.
During and following WW2, Italian and German Prisoners of War were placed on their farm to help in the war and post war effort by being part of the Hoosons’ agricultural workforce. Everyone in the family spoke of this time as being a happy one.
A few years ago, I came across a bundle of letters from Prisoners of War to my grandmother which had been written when they returned to their war ravaged countries, and speaking of their gratitude for their good treatment on farm, and their hopes for sustained international friendship. Some of the letters were written in English, but most of them were in Italian and German, in which my grandmother was well versed. It was clear that Kathleen became passionately committed to post war international friendship, as I also found some documents amongst her papers, which included leaflets from an organisation called Save Europe now, which was run by the publisher Victor Gollantz and which organised the sending of food and clothes’ parcels to Italy and Germany in the teeth of British opposition. Kathleen Hooson contributed to this post war effort- and also wrote copy for a short broadcast to the Children of Germany, in German, on the behalf of the children of Wales, which expressed the hope that the horrors of the war would never be repeated.
In amongst the letters which I found, I discovered another bundle of four letters from an Italian ex POW called Gualtiero Lenzi, to my grandmother, which indicated a strong friendship. The postmark was still clear on the fragile envelopes, telling us that he was writing from the central Italian village of Castellucio. To cut a very long story short, I tracked his family down and went to meet his daughters to show them the letters and to get to know them. We are now in regular contact.
I have written a play, exploring the themes which were touched on in the letters, and drawing on my grandparents’ memoirs to give a picture of life on Caerfallen during and after WW2. The play is set firmly in 1943-5- but I hope to be hinting at some parallels about our present relationship with Europe, and the national conversation we are having about the way forward.
I have just received the incredibly good news that my theatre company, the Hearth Centre, has been awarded a grant from Arts Council England to develop my play, and I have signed a contract with Theatr Clwyd to put a Work in Progress event on at the theatre on March 16th. I have allocated the first two months of 2019 to doing some more research in Ruthin towards doing a second draft of the script. I would really love to talk to historical organisations and any individuals who might have memories- or stories about the POWs in Ruthin, who were placed in a large camp outside Ruthin called Pool Park. ( of which nothing remains) I have placed the originals of the letters in the Denbighshire archive at the Ruthin museum- and I want to work closely with them to engage the Ruthin community in the development of this play which is about their history. I understand that the younger generations may not have known that there was a POW camp outside their town , and it might also be wonderful to work with local people towards a heritage project to re-imagine a forgotten part of their history.
I have made contact with Polly Snape- who has been very supportive of this project. She suggested that I compose this document in the hope of engaging interest when I visit Ruthin in January and February of next year- with the aim of setting up some interviews and meetings with people who might want to help me in this way. If you are interested- please contact me on
or contact the other Polly- Polly Snape! ( confusing, we know!)
Artistic Director of the Hearth Centre.
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