Robert Owen 250
2021 marked the 250th anniversary of Robert Owen’s birth in Newtown.
Robert Owen was a Welsh textile manufacturer, philanthropist and social reformer born in Newtown, Powys 250 years ago. Owen’s ideas about principled manufacturing, youth education and early child care, and the importance of community resonate with us two and a half centuries later. This honouring of Robert Owen’s legacy will however be undertaken with complete reflection of all aspects of his history including those more difficult.
Despite his many forward-thinking ideas, Robert Owen did not oppose the continuation of slavery and the use of goods from American plantations. The industry that he made his money from presents significant social and environmental concerns and many of these issues have contemporary relevance, from slavery, child labour, sweat shops, inequalities and exploitation to land erosion and throwaway fashion; the story of textiles opens lots of questions and debate.
This project does not seek to rewrite history, but endeavours to ensure that it is properly reflected. To show individuals as they were, the good with the bad.
The Robert Owen 250 project offers an opportunity for Newtown residents, local and wider communities to view the legacy of Robert Owen in new ways.
The project is funded by Welsh Government, Powys County Council, Newtown & Llanllwchaiarn Town Council and the Robert Owen Museum. The partner organisations are the Arts Council of Wales, Oriel Davies Gallery and Race Council Cymru.
There are various strands of the Robert Owen 250 project
A permanent piece of public art has been commissioned and is being created by professional artist, Howard Bowcott.
Diverse Voices: Writers Dylan Huw and Sadia Pineda Hameed have been commissioned to work with the local community to respond to Robert Owen’s history, ideas, and legacy.
Sculpteen: A local sculpture competition for young people in conjunction with Mid Wales Art Centre has produced some exceptional pieces with the brief being to explore the life and work of Robert Owen.
An augmented reality trail in and around Newtown that will tell Robert Owen’s story through 6 – 8 ‘digital’ stops. Performers from a Newtown-based theatre company will be part of the visuals used within the app.
Rethinking the Robert Owen Museum in Newtown including refreshed displays (fully bilingual for the first time) providing a wide-ranging account of his life, and an outreach programme for schools with a dedicated outreach officer to deliver the programme.
The projects are funded by Welsh Government, Powys County Council, Newtown & Llanllwchaiarn Town Council and the Robert Owen Museum. The partner organisations are the Arts Council of Wales, Oriel Davies Gallery and Race Council Cymru.