Defence and National Rehabilitation Centers

Defence and National Rehabilitation Centers

2018 was the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. To mark this centenary and to raise awareness of the opening of the UK’s first purpose-built rehabilitation centre for injured servicemen, we launched a nationwide competition for new war poems. More than 5,000 entries were received; media coverage was secured across national newspapers, on TV and BBC radio; and Prince William read out the winning entry at the opening ceremony for the new centre. Our project resulted in millions of people learning about the new rehabilitation centre, which delighted funders and the centre’s staff and patients alike. A 6-foot tall inscription of the winning poem remains in the centre’s mess hall to this day.

2018 commemorated the end of the First World War when the guns fell silent. 2018 also marked the creation of the Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre (DNRC), one of the world’s best clinical rehabilitation centres for the armed forces and potentially civilians too. The centre was the brainchild of the late 6th Duke of Westminster, who was determined that those who serve in the armed forces should receive the best possible treatment for their injuries, physical or mental. Its Patron was Prince William.

We were hired by the Duke of Westminster’s team to raise awareness about the new centre. Many of the memories of the First World War were encapsulated in poetry, much of it written at the time. Those poems have been beloved by generations since. Therefore to celebrate the new DNRC being used by patients for the first time, we wanted to launch an initiative that reminded people that many servicemen today also suffer life changing injury.

Such people, in confronting the reality of conflict or hardship, display the same spirit of stoicism and optimism that people did a century ago. The DNRC was created to embody that spirit, reflecting humankind’s ability to triumph over adversity and look to the future. We believed it was appropriate to use poetry once more to pay tribute to that human achievement. For the DNRC, we therefore launched a national poetry competition under the banner ‘A Poem to Remember’.

The competition began in January 2018 and was open to anybody above the age of 16. Backing for it was secured from many of the UK’s leading military charities and poetry organisations and Prince William agreed to read the winning poem aloud at the DNRC’s opening ceremony in the summer of 2018. A judging panel including the comedian Stephen Fry was established, chaired by the historian Dan Snow. The final five entries selected by them went forward to a national public vote with the winner announced just before the centre opened so as to provide media content to highlight its creation.

Reaction to the competition exceeded all expectations. The Sun newspaper, which was the largest- read newspaper in the UK at the time, was so taken with the competition that it became a media supporter, promoting in print to its millions of readers. Further support was received across the national media landscape, including in the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Daily Express and the London Evening Standard. The BBC Radio 4 Today programme, the most prestigious news show in the UK regularly featured the completion and interviewed the winner live. The BBC TV programme Songs of Praise also featured an interview with the winner and a reading of her poem ‘One for the Team’. In total more than 5,000 entries were received, and the Hay-on-Wye literature festival invited some of the amateur poets who had submitted their poems to read a selection at their annual event.

To find out more about the DNRC go to www.thednrc.org.uk

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