Robert Owen 250
2021 marked the 250th anniversary of Robert Owen’s birth in Newtown.

After full public consultation, a combined project to mark this anniversary has been launched, with a variety of events taking place in Newtown this coming April.

There are four distinct aspects of this Robert Owen 250 project, all being arranged with the intention to invite community involvement.

A permanent piece of public art has been commissioned and is being created by professional artist, Howard Bowcott. This will be located by the river, opposite the skate park, for locals to engage with and enjoy. The writers Dylan Huw and Sadia Pineda Hameed have been commissioned to work with the local community to respond to Robert Owen’s history, and produce text which will be used as part of the work.

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. These sculptures are currently available to view at the Robert Owen Museum and will later move to Oriel Davies Gallery. Viewers are invited to vote for the sculpture that most captivates them.

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.

Support to update 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.

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.

If you would like to find out more about the project, please contact Oriel Davies Gallery.

Robert Owen image by Rhian Davies

Published: 19.02.2022