In December 2016, I was fortunate to be able to interview Kiran Sahota, Director of the Community Interest Company, Believe in Me about her role in creating the ‘Honoring Indian VC Soldiers in World War One’ exhibition which was displayed at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (12 November 2016 – 28 January 2017). Working with advice from Mike Noble, Community Liaison Officer at the Centre for Hidden Histories and Dr Nicola Gauld from the AHRC First World War Engagement Centre, Voices of War and Peace, Kiran created a display which in the words of the exhibition catalogue sought to increase, “public awareness of South Asian soldiers of the British Indian Army who won the Victoria Cross in World War One.” Sponsored by the Heritage Lottery Fund, collaborative partners working with Kiran included the National Army Museum, the Imperial War Museum, the British National Library, Brighton Pavilion Museum and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Enthusing about the experience, Kiran commented, “I’ve never felt more empowered, I’ve never felt more inspired. And now I really get the gist of all the hard work that goes on behind an exhibition. The reception, the reviews…I was so overwhelmed.”
This month the Centre for Hidden Histories has had updates from two of its commissioned performance projects. The first, In Flux which is described by its producers Excavate as “A performance lecture about borders and the Middle East for three storytellers and a musician” was previewed at City Arts, Nottingham on 25th January 2016. The play interweaves three stories, the history of the Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916) and its geo-political consequences, the story of a young Kurdish woman and the contrasting lives of her three sisters, and the journey of a young man escaping the war in Syria for a new life in the UK. In Flux features performances by Sarah Altan, Sherry Fatemi, Adel Hamad and Excavate Artistic Director, Andy Barrett. Compelling and timely, the Centre for Hidden Histories looks forward to In Flux being performed in other theatres and arts venues across the UK. If you are interested, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
This month has also seen the completion of Dr Caroline Bressey, Professor David Killingray, Dr Jacqueline Jenkinson and Reel MCR’s drama documentary about Britain’s first race riots that occurred across the country from 1919 and continued for over eighteen months. The film is focused not only on the history of the riots but also on the process of how to create dramatic material from such controversial historical events. As part of understanding this process, the film features the expertise of Tony Coldwell, Director of Photography on the TV series, Mr Selfridge, Foyle’s War and Wolfblood.
You can watch the 1919 Race Riots Workshop film below.
The Centre for Hidden Histories is delighted to support a new project by Away from the Western Front, which has also attracted support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the British Institute for the Study of Iraq (Gertrude Bell Memorial).
The project will explore the heritage of the men and women from Britain and its former Empire who served in the often overlooked campaigns of Salonika, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia and Africa.
The Western Front has remained the main focus for European commemoration of the First World War but the campaigns which took place away from the Western Front allow us to place the war in a global context, in which several empires grappled for world power and influence, leading to a major reorganisation of the international political situation in the years following the war. Britain’s part in this, its attempts to safeguard its place on the world stage and the consequences of this are as important as any European outcomes. A central aim of the ‘Away from the Western Front’ project will be to understand what made the conflict a World War.
Lyn Edmonds, a Trustee of the Away from the Western Front charity said: “Access to the heritage of the First World War away from the Western Front can be problematic for many people in this country. This is partly due to geography as the campaigns took place far away and partly due to subsequent histories in these areas, many of which underwent great social and political change after the First World War. This project is a great opportunity to improve public knowledge of these campaigns during the centenary period.”
The project will offer contrasting perspectives on the campaigns and provide fresh opportunities to engage with and learn about the common heritage of involvement in this global event. People from a very wide spectrum of communities were involved in the campaigns away from the Western Front, both fighting for and against the Allies and we will work with many of them in the project, including Iranian, Iraqi and Turkish communities in the UK.
Several local and regional partners have already been identified in Devon, Lancashire, Berkshire, Sussex and London. Local museums and National Trust properties in these areas will work with community groups, youth groups and schools with funding from the grant to research the lives and stories of those who served in these far away campaigns. Those stories will be brought to life through engaging creative outputs, drama, film, art and music, specifically designed to raise public awareness of the First World War away from the Western Front.
The Glass Tank at Oxford Brookes recently hosted the exhibition, ‘Beyond the Western Front: Oxfordshire in World War One’ (18 November – 16 December 2016). Re-live the display by viewing the exhibition catalogue here.
I hope you’ve got some 3D specs!
In November, I was fortunate to attend the NCCPE Engage conference (29 – 30 November 2016) at the Bristol Royal Marriott Hotel. Sessions included ‘Raising the Bar’ which saw Associate Professor Paul Manners (UWE and Director of the National Centre for Public Engagement) and Sophie Duncan (Deputy Director of the National Centre for Public Engagement) award the first ever Engage Gold Watermark Accreditation to the Centre for Public Engagement at Queen Mary, University of London. Community Liaison Officer, Mike Noble and myself also participated in a highly relevant workshop on the lessons learned from Connected Communities projects, which was led by Katherine Dunleavy (University of Bristol). Other sessions that I participated in included a session on ‘Public Engagement as Method in the Arts and Humanities’ as well as talks on academic and museum partnerships led by Carolyn Sargentson (University of Sussex) and museum representatives of The University of Oxford. Read more