THE Seventh International Robert Graves Conference opened in Majorca yesterday, just days after the poet's home in Deya was opened to the public as a museum. The conference, which is being held in Palma and Deya, has been organised by the Robert Graves Society and the St John's College Robert Graves Trust of Oxford. It will continue until July 8. On hand to welcome participants yesterday was Dunstan Ward, president of the Robert Graves Society, who will also introduce many of the speakers at the Conference, which is called Robert Graves and the Art of Collaboration. The programme includes talks, lectures, readings, photographic exhibitions and discussion sessions involving leading writers, historians, poets, archivist, academics from all over the world and former colleagues of Graves, who spent much of his life in Deya and is buried in the cemetery there. Tomorrow, there will be a special ecumenical service in Deya Church to mark the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme in which Graves fought and was seriously wounded. It will be attended by serving members of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, the regiment with which the poet served. Professor Paul O'Prey, the Vice-Chancellor of Roehampton University and Chairman of the War Poets Association, will speak on the significance of the Battle and read an extract from Graves's autobiography, Good-bye to All That. Close friend and poet Alan Sillitoe will also read poems at Graves's graveside, after which a poppy wreath from the Royal Welsh Fusiliers will be laid on the grave. Speakers at the Conference will include Michael Irwin, chairman of the Thomas Hardy Society, biographer and critic Dominic Hibberd, archivist/historian Steven L Wright, Paul O'Prey, who will also interview Alastair Reid, biographer Richard Perceval Graves, the poet's nephew. Graves's sons Tomás and William will also be taking part in the conference.
There will be a poetry reading, with Ruth Fainlight, Alan Sillitoe, Grevel Lindop, Patrick McGuinness and Biel Mesquida, and a song recital, Counting the Beats: Graves Poems Set as Songs by Jay Ansill and Claudia Balant. The Palma city council gave a reception in honour of the participants at the city hall last night.
Events in Palma are being held at La Caixa's cultural centre.

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