Community, Identity and Commemoration: Britain and the First World War
Friday 23 June, University of Derby, Kedleston Road, Room: TBA
The Passchendaele campaign, fought in the Flanders mud, provides many of the most enduring images of the Western Front. It also remains one of the most controversial battles of the War. At this public conference, the continuing reinterpretation of the battle will be discussed as we approach the 100th anniversary of the ‘Battle of Mud’. The academic controversies concerning the Passchendaele campaign have often reflected differing viewpoints on British identity and the extent to which the War exemplified British values. The conference will explore how the War impacted on Britain’s communities and the impact it has had on the evolution of a shared identity. It will examine the various ways in which Britain has marked the First World War centenary, examining the social, cultural and political influences that have shaped the commemorations. As the Silk Mill Museum hosts the Weeping Window, from the installation ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ by Paul Cummins, the Conference at Derby University provides an opportunity to discuss what impact the centenary events have had on public knowledge and understanding of the Great War.
13.15: Dr Ian Whitehead: ‘The Battle of Mud’: Perspectives on the Passchendaele Campaign, 1917
14.15: Professor Paul Elliott: Derby Public Parks in the First World War and Beyond: Recovering a Hidden History of the Home Front
15.15: Christopher Batten, BA (Hons): Life in Ruhleben Camp: Edwardian Britain in Microcosm
15.45: Thomas Debaere, BA (Hons): Requiem: Foulds, Beaverbrook and a ‘British’ Festival of Remembrance
16.15: Dr Kathleen McIlvenna: Communities, Government and Heritage: The Centenary of the First World War and Public
The German exchange group explored the history of World War One era internment of German and Austrian civilians and officers at Wakefield’s Lofthouse Park Camp and the internment of British civilians at the Ruhleben Camp in Spandau. They also visited Bradford’s ‘Little Germany’ where many Germans had settled in the 19th century.
Scheduled activities included meeting descendants, community-based researchers, local residents as well as young people from the Leeds-based Preservative Party and the university. Professor Matthew Stibbe, himself a descendant, spoke about the Ruhleben Camp and the rich resources held at the University of Leeds’s Liddle Collection (a treasure trove of First World War personal papers). David Stowe led a guided walk around the former site of Lofthouse Park Camp. Professor Panikos Panayi (Leicester De Montfort University) joined the group in Wakefield and later presented ‘The Global War against the German ‘Enemy Alien’: Internment in the British Empire, 1914-1920’ as part of the Legacies of War seminar series at Leeds University.
This Centre for Hidden Histories international collaboration is set to continue further into 2017-2018. It is planned that a First World War exhibition at Spandau City Museum will contain Ruhleben material from the Liddle Collection. This exhibition will be co-curated by the ‘In the Wrong Place, At the Wrong Time’ team and Spandau’s Youth History Workshop. The exhibition is scheduled to open in Spring 2018.
The Centre for Hidden Histories and Excavate Community Theatre are proud to present In Flux, a performance piece that examines the history of borders in the Middle East and the implications of their continuing collapse on those who live in the region and those who are fleeing from the wars that have been unleashed there.
In Flux interweaves three monologues – the history of the secretive Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 which led to the creation of Iraq and was a key influence on the current map of the Middle East; the story of a woman whose sisters all live in Kurdistan and yet find themselves in four different countries; and a young man’s account of how he escaped the war in Syria to travel, via the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean ocean, to Nottingham.
The first public performance will take place at Nottingham Playhouse on Saturday 8th April at 8pm. The event is free but booking is essential.
With projections, live music and performers from England, Bakur, Syria and Iran this should be a provocative and enlightening evening.
There will be a collection after the performance for the Red Cross Tuesday Night Group who provide free English classes and activities to those who have just arrived in the city.
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.”