In Flux, a play produced by Excavate and supported by the Centre for Hidden Histories was performed at Nottingham Playhouse’s Neville Studio on Saturday 8th April. It is a series of dramatic monologues about how Western imperialism in the Middle East during the First World War intersects with the history of the present. Discussing Andy Barrett’s script, Jasim Ghafur, a Nottingham based visual artist whose work is included in the show, commented:
“Andy… beautifully interweaved many different aspects of history to draw attention…to the historical reality that imperialist powers including the UK, have significantly influenced uncertainty and political instability in the Middle East…Kurdistan is a prime example of the political outcome of colonialist strategies after the First World War.”
In Flux attracted a sold-out audience of 75 people. Tickets were offered free of charge. There was a collection afterwards for the Red Cross Tuesday Night Group which provides English language support to asylum seekers arriving in the city of Nottingham.
Performer Adel Hamad is pictured in the top right hand image.
On Sunday 8th April, Dr David Amos hosted the finale of his Harworth Colliery in World War One project at Worksop Library. Funded by the Centre for Hidden Histories and produced in association with Nottingham Trent University and David’s not-for-profit community interest organisation, Mine2Minds Education, the project explored the ‘hidden history’ of the controversial development of Harworth Colliery in Nottinghamshire during the First World War.
The controversy focused on the involvement of German industrialists in a strategically important British industry (coalmining); later it was to centre on the character of Arnold Lupton, an academic, Liberal politician and mining engineer who founded the Anglo-German North Union Mining Co Ltd, which initially started developing Harworth Colliery in 1913. Along with his pacifist views Lupton was jailed during the war for his protests against the Government for its actions over Harworth (he chained himself to the railings in Downing Street). During the First World War, German workers from Harworth colliery were interned and the Company’s property and assets eventually impounded under the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1916.
David has been leading a team of community researchers to look into this difficult, yet fascinating and important history. The team conducted research in the Library at the National Coalmining Museum for England as well as at Kings Meadow Archives (The University of Nottingham) and at Bircotes, Worksop and Mansfield Libraries. The results of the team’s work were on display at Worksop Library on 8th April.
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.
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: email@example.com
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.