Ellie Sloan wins the Christine Noxon Travel Award
The Christine Noxon Travel Award 2017
This Award, to the value of £500, is open to current pupils and those within 3 years of completing A Levels at Wisbech Grammar School, to support independent travel for educational purposes. Travel must be completed by the end of the following academic year. It is sponsored by Christine Noxon, Deputy Head at Wisbech Grammar 1997-2016.
My application for the Travel Award was based on researching and understanding the key themes to Vera Brittain’s writing in her diary and memoirs. Vera’s writing follows her experiences of being a feminist, pacifist and writer before, during and after the First World War.
Writing at a time when women did not yet have the vote and society was not ready to listen to them, along with contemporaries, such as local author Dorothy L Sayers, Vera Brittain helped break the mould. Vera became one of the first women to attend and obtain a degree from Oxford University and went on to make her own living through her writing.
She was strongly discouraged from pursuing her dreams of living through the pen and it was not until she met and grew closer to a friend of her brother’s, Roland Leighton, that her writing became more sophisticated and sustained more depth as she finally met someone with a similar intellectual mind. Through the encouragement of Roland, whilst living through the atrocities of war, Vera found her writing had more pertinent meaning.
The Award will enable me to travel to different places that impacted on Vera’s life, places that inspired and influenced her beliefs and actions. I will begin at Somerville College where her letters and papers are kept. From here I will make a trip to London to explore the first hospitals where Vera volunteered and nursed wounded soldiers. Also in London is the house Vera shared with another literary contemporary, Winifred Holtby.
The largest part of my travels will be to Ploegsteert, near Ypres. Plugstreet Wood in the village of Ploegsteert, now home to large war memorials, is the birthplace of Vera’s fiancée Roland’s most famous villanelle “Violets from Plugstreet Wood”. This was one of the most poignant of the many poems Roland wrote for Vera in order to help her understand the beauty of the natural world. Everyone was so caught up with war (understandably), that they forgot the beauty and value of the human mind and its place in the natural world. These poems and the letters written to her by Roland helped to give Vera the strength to fight for pacification. This was fuelled by Roland’s death, her brother Edward’s death and close friend Victor’s death.
After amassing my research I plan to write and produce a booklet on Vera and her role as an inspiring woman. The booklet will show what it was like for Vera and other women during wartime and how inspiring Vera was through her bravery and tenacity. It has been agreed by Octavia Hill Birthplace Trust that they will publish this booklet as an extension of their ethos in the education and empowerment of women. The booklet will be sold in the Octavia Hill birthplace House as well as other places around the town.