Remembrance Day – Cosmo’s War

Images above: Cosmo Clark; Remembrance Day at St Michael & All Angels Church, Bath Rd

A play based on the World War 1 letters of the artist Cosmo Clark

By Torin Douglas

St Michael & All Angels Church will mark Remembrance Day next month with a staged reading of Cosmo’s War, a play based on the World War 1 letters of the artist Cosmo Clark, to and from his family at 44 Rusthall Avenue, Bedford Park W4.

Cosmo Clark, who volunteered for active service with the Artists’ Rifles at the age of 17, won the Military Cross and so did his brother Percy. He documented his experiences in drawings and letters from the front and later became a well-known artist. His work is held in a range of collections including the Government Art Collection and the Imperial War Museum.

Cosmo’s father was also a well-known artist.  James Clark painted The Great Sacrifice, described as “the most popular painting of WW1”. It depicted a dead soldier in British uniform at the foot of a ghostly figure of Christ on the Cross: millions of copies were sold and it was used in stained glass windows and as a war memorial in public buildings.

Read more at James & Cosmo Clark: WW1 artists in Bedford Park: chiswickbookfestival.net

After the war, in 1922, James Clark painted The Salutation mural which is displayed in the north aisle of St Michael & All Angels Church. It depicts the Visitation of the Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. The Remembrance Day reading will mark the painting’s centenary.

Bernard Adams, the writer of Cosmo’s War and a former BBC producer, says:

“The play is, literally, a documentary. Every word spoken, other than by the narrator, is taken from the marvellously preserved letters the family exchanged, detailing their deeply contrasted lives.”

Father Kevin Morris, the vicar of St Michael & All Angels, says:

“This is a remarkable story of World War 1, rooted in the artistic community of Bedford Park, and powerfully told through the family’s letters. It seemed appropriate to read the play on Remembrance Day in the centenary year of The Salutation, which James Clark painted for St Michael & All Angels.”

The staged reading, with music and images, will take place at 7.30pm on Friday November 11th in St Michael & All Angels Church. Refreshments will be on sale from 7pm and in the interval. There will also be a collection for the charity Combat Stress, which supports veterans. Tickets, costing £10 for adults and £5 for under-20s, are on sale here: smaaa.org.uk

Cosmo Clark’s granddaughter Annie Davis, a graphic designer, will attend the reading with her sister Francesca and other family members. She designed the book of Cosmo’s War, which will be on sale in the church, and she and Bernard Adams spoke about it at the Waterstones Local Authors Party in the Chiswick Book Festival: chiswickbookfestival.net

The play was originally performed in 2018 as a rehearsed reading at Christ Church, East Sheen. It was due to be performed at St Michael & All Angels in November 2020 but the church was closed because of COVID.

Torin Douglas is a member of St Michael & All Angels Church, one of the organisers of the Bedford Park Festival and Director of the Chiswick Book Festival.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

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