THE Poet Laureate, Dame Carol Ann Duffy, will launch a new exhibition of real-life stories, paper saplings and poems, at Croome Court near Pershore.

The exhibition, called "Plumlines", will include more that 188 poems which have been written by people from across Worcestershire about female relatives during the First World War.

“Working with two poets, Brenda Read-Brown and Heather Wastie, we held workshops across Worcestershire with schools, writers groups, history groups and volunteers,” said Rachel Sharpe, Croome’s Creative Partnerships Manager.

She added: "Their task was to research a female relative from the First World War and bring her story to life in a one-hundred word poem. Some of the people who took part had never written poetry before, but every single poem is beautifully written, moving and has an important story to tell, in most cases a hidden story.

"Everyone learnt something new about their family, and some writers were moved to tears when sharing their work. Once the poems were written, we began to look for a fitting way to exhibit them in the house.”

The inspiration for Plumlines came from a little known story at Croome, of how a woman ahead of her time, the American heiress Viscountess Deerhurst, helped the 9th Earl of Coventry see the many ways in which women could provide crucial support to the men at the front line.

Rachel said: "It was Virginia’s commitment and strength that helped Lord Coventry mobilise Pershore’s first ever Women’s Institute (WI), by encouraging women to meet. The WI’s jam making skills, using the Pershore plum, helped the war effort at home and on the on the battlefields where it was sent to help keep up the calorie intake of the troops. The centenary of that meeting is on November 21, 2016.

"Croome was inspired by Virginia’s strength and determination, and wanted to find a way to tell this forgotten story in her historic home. Working with poets, schools, writers groups, history groups and volunteers the 188 poems were penned."

Artist Su Blackwell was commissioned to transform the poems into 188 paper saplings, each one containing a poem. These saplings will form part of a larger exhibition in the house where visitors can see a book containing all of the poems, and poetry will be displayed on walls, jam jars and utensils.

Su said: "After reading all of the poems, domestic jam-making in Pershore during the First World War was a recurring theme.” “Researching the area, I spoke to historians, museums, and local orchard growers, with regards to the famous Pershore plum. After collecting many hundreds of Pershore purples and yellows in Evesham, I made plum jam, and kept the discarded plum stones which also form part of the installation."

She added: "The paper saplings represent new life, hope and beginnings for these women, who helped to win the war. I set out to produce a beautiful, fragile art-work, which would complement the poems, creating a space for thought and quiet reflection. I feel very honoured to be part of this project, commemorating the forgotten voices of local women, through their family and friend's words.”

To launch the opening, on November 19, Dame Carol Ann Duffy will give a performance.

She will also read from her best known collections, including ‘The World’s Wife’ and ‘The Bees’, and her performance will also include First World War poems ‘The Christmas truce’ and ‘The Last post’. Alongside Carol’s readings, musician John Sampson "will take everyone on a virtuoso tour through musical highlights of the past 500 years played on a fascinating collection of period and modern instruments".

Professor Maggie Andrews from Worcester University will be holding ‘Jamfest’ where visitors can learn more about the history of jam and the Pershore plum, and there will be jam tasting opportunities.

Visitors can attend the opening on Saturday, November 19, from 11am until 4.30pm, on the first floor of the house. The exhibition will run until the end of 2017.

For more information call: 01905 371006 or visit the website