• Launch of our Plymouth WWII oral history book

  • Celebration for the completion of our World War Two Plymouth project

    After two years of a truly fascinating project sponsored by the Heritage Lottery Fund, we are pleased to announce that we will be holding a special event at St Saviour’s Church on the Barbican in Plymouth on Friday 27th November to celebrate the project’s conclusion. We will be publishing a book containing excerpts from the 60 oral interviews we conducted with Plymouth residents who remember the Blitz and the years of social rehousing which followed the war, and we will be welcoming many of our interviewees to St Saviour’s to meet each other and once more share their memories of those painfully unforgettable times.

    St Saviours invite single flyer

  • Andy Blackwell directs new play for the Homes School Theatre Company

    2014-11-17 15.14.25

  • New grant award for World War One projects

    The Word Machine CIC is launching a new grant award for community projects in Plymouth this year.

    The Word Machine CIC has been enabled by the Military Covenant to award grants for projects in 2014 to commemorate the first year of war in Plymouth in 1914/15. Community groups and individuals are invited to apply for a grant of up to £1000 to support projects which help Plymouth families to explore their family archives. By accessing family stories, diaries, letters and personal items, we hope to discover more about how Plymouth families experienced the first year of war in 1914/15, how they felt about the amalgamation of Plymouth, Devonport and Stonehouse into one city, and how they feel today about the impact of amalgamation one hundred years on.

    The Plymouth’s Great War grant support will be for no more than £1000 in each case, and will only be given to activities or events taking place in Plymouth during 2014. Retrospective grant aid for work already completed or which will have started before the application will be considered. The deadline for receipt of applications is 30th June 2014. P

  • Plymouth’s Great War announcement

    PRESS RELEASE 23rd May 2014

    The Military Covenant sponsors new project to explore Plymouth families’ archives of the outbreak of the Great War

    Today, The Word Machine Community Interest Company launches a new project in Plymouth, supported by the Plymouth Armed Forces Community Covenant grant scheme, to ask Plymouth families to explore their own family archives for memorabilia and memories about the outbreak of war in Plymouth in 1914.

    Following the launch of the Plymouth’s Great War exhibition at the Plymouth Museum and Art Gallery on 1st May, The Word Machine CIC and other partners will be asking Plymouth families to see if they have photographs, letters, family stories or physical items which can be photographed or scanned to form a new community archive of material relating to the outbreak of war.

    MD says: “We’d like to find anything we can: letters, photographs, medals, diaries, stories, official documents, personal possessions. We know these kinds of family items will be very precious, so we will be setting up facilities to enable families to photograph or scan items so that we can keep a record and the items can stay safe with families. We will be interested too to hear family stories of the time, which we will record and log as part of the project.”

    Families with currently-serving military members will also be asked to contribute contemporary items and thoughts reflecting their present-day experience of living in Plymouth while family members are away serving their country. It is hoped that this contemporary aspect will help give greater understanding of how Plymouth families felt 100 years ago.

    Plymouth Covenant officer, Heather Ogburn, said: “We are delighted that The Word Machine CIC are able to explore Plymouth’s unique experiences of WWI by looking at very personal stories from those who lived through it. The project will create a rich archive that will illustrate events which have shaped who we are – our cultural, heritage and identity.”

    A Facebook page has been set up to share information at https://www.facebook.com/PlymouthsGreatWar and a website will be produced where all the scanned images and stories will be presented.

    A grant award to local community projects in support of the Plymouth’s Great War initiative will be announced by The Word Machine CIC next week.


    Heather Ogburn, Plymouth Armed Foces Community Covenant
    Heather.ogburn@plymouth.gov.uk                Tel: 01752 307485


    The Military Covenant community logo can be downloaded here:

    A copy of the Plymouth Museum and Art Gallery Great War exhibition poster can be downloaded here:

    The Word Machine CIC logo can be downloaded here:


    1. The Word Machine Community Interest Company is a social enterprise based in Plymouth which works with local people to enable them to realise and release their stories.

    2. Further information about the Military Covenant can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/fulfilling-the-commitments-of-the-armed-forces-covenant/supporting-pages/armed-forces-covenant

    3. The project will work closely with Plymouth and West Devon Record Office and Plymouth Museum and Art Gallery.

    4. The project will work with Plymouth social enterprise FotoNow (www.fotonow.org) who will make their Camper Obscura available around the city over the summer for families to visit and scan items into the onboard scanner.


  • Remarkable diary find from World War Two in Plymouth

    Our interviewee Jack Berryman (born 1927) very kindly allowed us to look at his diary for 1941, and he has also permitted us to show it here. On the night of the first major blitz on 20th March 1941, Jack was a schoolboy living with his family at 2 Osborne Place, close to the Hoe. The day before, on Wednesday, he records a normal day, playing for the First XI against Plympton Grammar and losing 5-1. The next day, Thursday, he records that the King and Queen visited Plymouth. Then in a very poignant addition, in capital letters, he adds “OUR BIG BLITZ.” he goes on to mention “big craters and fires everywhere” and the following day, “No school”. Then he notes, the same day, “unexploded bomb found opposite the house.” The diary is a fascinating and remarkable insight into the mind of a young boy at such a terrible moment, and we thank Jack very much for allowing us to share it.2014-05-21 23.11.36

  • Work about to start on our World War One project

    For the last few weeks, we have been making preparations for our work to begin on the Military Covenant-sponsored project to commemorate the first year of war in Plymouth in 1914. The Plymouth’s Great War exhibition has now opened at the Museum, and it’s a really fascinating and very well put-together exhibition – really well worth a visit. Our job now is to go out into the community in Plymouth over the next few months and encourage families to look into their own family archives to see what we can find from 1914/15. We will be collecting all that material – in photographic or scanned form, so that families can be assured they won’t have to let their precious items out of their hands – and towards the end of the year will be publishing it and donating the archive to the city. Lots more news to come.

  • Damn. The summer’s over.

    Well, we’ve been holding out for a long time. The Word Machine CIC managed to absorb pretty much every ounce of this summer’s glorious Westcountry sunshine, but now it’s back to work. Lots of exciting things are happening to keep our spirits up. Our collaborative work with tribe magazine is going from strength to strength. This week’s 21st edition of tribe magazine has had about 100,000 reads in four days – an extraordinary figure, and a testament to founding editor Mark Doyle’s vision and the support of his superb team. This autumn, we plan to work with the tribe team on new digital publications, including Frank Carney’s wonderful Birmingham-set novel, Crimes of the Powerless. We also plan to begin a regular series of tribe publications, including a Saki anthology and a new writing anthology.

    We are meeting with a new year of second-year history students at Plymouth University later this week to start the second year of our HLF-sponsored oral history of Plymouth during the war, and the ten years of social housing which followed it. The excellent fellows at Fotonow have begun to produce some lovely photographic records of our interviewees, and we’ll be presenting an interim exhibition on the project at the Plymouth International Book Festival on Sunday 3rd November.

    There are plans afoot for an involvement in Plymouth’s commemoration of WWI alongside Plymouth historian Chris Robinson, local publishing expert Helen Greathead and the good people at the Real Ideas Organisation.

    Onwards and upwards.

  • Brave New World

    Aldous Huxley’s vision of the future written in the 1930s seems to be getting ever more real, so in the endless battle against the demons of convention and corporatism, we’ve been busy creating our own brave new future for The Word Machine CIC, and we’re really pleased to make an important announcement.

    We have now formally joined forces with online monthly arts magazine tribe. We have been fans of the work of Mark Doyle and his colleagues for some time. tribe is a unique production, put out every month, with subscribers all over the world, and featuring innovation in art from every corner of the globe. The website and social media pages are updated pretty much every day, making it a powerful resource for the transmission of information about exciting new work. We’re looking forward to working even more closely with tribe, and we have plenty of plans in place for new products working off the tribe platform, both online and live events. We will be working together to provide an active engagement tool for young people who are looking to develop skills within the worlds of digital publishing and online media. Find out more about tribe here.


  • Molly Drake – poet, singer, and mother of Nick Drake

    Molly DrakeFrail, fragile, English, delicate, bucolic, wistful, melancholic…these are all words which at some time or other have been applied to the tragically short life and legendary work of singer/songwriter Nick Drake, who died in 1972 at the age of 26, having released three albums with Island Records. The three albums – Five Leaves Left, Bryter Later, Pink Moon – sold only in small quantities at the time, but as is so often the case, the artist’s reputation soared in the decades after his death. In the years that have passed, scores of musicians have testified to the influence his work has had on their career: from Graham Coxon of Blur to Scritti Politti, from Lucinda Williams to REM, from David Sylvian to Kate Bush.

    Nick Drake’s work seemed rooted in that very English tradition of pastoral lyricism, with frequent references to and metaphors about the landscape sitting alongside very internalised observations, as on the title track of this final album, Pink Moon:


    Now, through the industrious endeavours of the people at Bryter Music, who manage the Nick Drake Estate, a new light has been thrown on his music, one that reveals a very poignant family thread. Available only from the Estate as a limited edition pressing at http://www.alimentation.cc/nick_drake/cds/molly-drake.html, the eponymous Molly Drake album contains 19 songs recorded by Nick’s mother, Molly.

    These songs were never meant to be broadcast. They were recorded by Molly’s husband Rodney in the family home in Warwickshire during the 1950s, and the CD’s authentic crackle and hiss conjure up an English home, a piano and a frail and poignant voice – there we are, those words again. Molly Drake’s songs are about love and loss and longing. Take the opening track, Happiness:


    “Happiness is like a bird with 20 wings, If you grab at him, woe betide you, I know, because I’ve tried.” This is the English lyrical tradition, it’s an inverted, upside-down Noel Coward, it’s the sad siren of fear and regret. Molly Drake was a poet who sometimes seemed to face a bleakness in her vision. Elsewhere, she sings softly of how “Love’s a germ you can’t resist”, and then later she cuts you to the quick with “Set me free, Why should I be kept in this sadness, kept in this madness, Deeper than a spell, deeper than hell.”  And a final, awful domestic scene: “Here we sit in the candlelight, waiting for the thrill to start, With the red-checked table cloth between us, We’re a hundred million miles apart.”

    Nick Drake is often gathered together amongst the English “folkies”: Roy Harper, John Martyn, Richard Thompson, Syd Barrett. But with the release of this extraordinary CD, we see his work stretching back deep into the heart of his own family and his family’s sense of spiritual and cultural isolation, perhaps stemming from Rodney and Molly’s early years in Burma. Nick Drake was famously adrift and out of place in the hip London of the early 1970s, and in these songs by his mother, we hear the seed of that poetic loneliness. Art has the power to redeem; it doesn’t always save.