Sikh Tapestry Project
Lead academics: Dr Mike Heffernan, Dr Steve Legg (University of Nottingham)
Community Partner: Ramgarhia Social Sisters
The Centre has been supporting this Leicester Sikh group as they engage with the heritage of the First World War. The group, who meet on a regular basis, have been developing a First World War commemorative project in the form of a tapestry that tells the story of the Sikh contribution to the war and will be based in part on their own family histories.
The Centre provided the group with a grant to fund their work. Professor Mike Heffernan is acting as academic adviser, alongside Dr Steve Legg of the School of Geography, University of Nottingham, who is an expert on post-Second World War New Delhi.
The Centre has developed a partnership with Nottingham based community theatre company Excavate in order to work with a variety of organisations that support those who are seeking refuge in Nottingham, alongside a group of artists from across the Middle Eastern community in the city. Together they are looking to create an artistic response to issues of migration caused by war, and what it means to be a refugee and to resettle in another country; issues of dissolving borders in the Middle East (2016 is the centenary of the Sykes-Picot agreement that defined the borders of Iraq and Syria); and the ways in which the public’s perception of what refuge is and how it should be offered, and under what conditions, is changing.
They are currently gathering stories and testimonies from those who are currently seeking refuge in Nottingham, those who work with these people, and those who have now established themselves in Nottingham having resettled from a range of countries across the Middle East.
After this period of research they will create a performance event that will blend music, storytelling and projections/film which will be performed in a number of formal and informal community spaces across the city.
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Lead academic: Dr Tim Grady (University of Chester)
Community Partner: Handforth Parish Council
This project aims to reveal the diverse history of the prisoner of war camp, the largest in the North West of England, that once stood in the sleepy Cheshire village of Handforth and make it accessible to both an academic and community audience for the first time. It is a collaboration between Handforth Parish Council, which has responsibility for local infrastructure, and the Department of History & Archaeology at the University of Chester, which has academic specialism in the history of the First World War. Research conducted jointly by the two partners forms the basis of an innovative outreach programme.
Centred on Handforth railway station – a key commuter base – the partners intend to display the history of camps on platform posters and through information leaflets. This material will give people an overview of the camp and its history but also direct them to further, more detailed, online information, which will be accessible by scanning QR codes on the posters and leaflets. These community activities will not only help to return the camp to the local memory culture, but will also ensure that the people of Handforth have a greater understanding of the diverse range of people that once inhabited their village.
Belgians in Cheshire
Lead Academic: Dr Hannah Ewence (University of Chester)
Community Partner: St Werburgh’s Catholic Church
This project is making a case study of the reception of Belgian refugees in the county of Cheshire. In contrast to the dominate narrative of the county, both historically and today, as culturally and demographically homogeneous, it will suggest that the widespread presence of Belgian refugees in all corners of the county is just one, of many, hidden histories that challenges such mis-conceptions. Working with volunteers from St Werburgh’s Catholic Church, Chester, this project draws together the threads of this rich and important but much overlooked history, by devising a travelling exhibition and a digital database of Belgians present in the county. The exhibition and database will invite the people of Cheshire to reconsider their history as one deeply connected to the ebb and flow of conflict, forced migration, and asylum. By touring a variety of locations including town halls, shopping centres and the University of Chester, the exhibition will also offer a unique opportunity to engage a diverse audience in this important local history. The database will cement the tangible threads of this history further still by offering a lasting and useable legacy.
The distribution of Belgian refugees and wounded Belgian combatants to all corners of the British Isles brought the war home to many for the first time, illustrating the devastating impact of war with a horrible immediacy. It is thus a history whose impression on the nation can only be properly assessed through an examination of the local level. How did responses to the arrival of Belgians change from one town to the next? What methods of relief were proposed and how were they differently orchestrated in villages, towns and cities? In what ways did community institutions such as churches, schools and guilds offer assistance? Did the presence of Belgians create tensions around communication, labour or housing? Did the duration of their stay engender animosity or greater appreciation of national and cultural differences within small communities?
Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum
Lead Academic: Dr Tudor Georgescu (Oxford Brookes University)
Community Partner: Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum
This project is a partnership between Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum (SOFO) and the History, Philosophy and Religion Department of Oxford Brookes University and focuses on the theme of ‘Remembrance and Commemoration’ and the war beyond western Europe. It aims to both pursue an original research project analysing the unused hidden histories housed in the Museum archive, and provide a series of methodological and skills based workshops for the Museum’s volunteers. The research focus lies with the investigation of the holdings relating to the war beyond the Western Front, including East European, Balkan, and Middle Eastern theatres.
The partnership will assess the extent to which the SOFO archive can bring a wider understanding of the war beyond the western front to its communities for the first time. The project will present its findings both academically – assessing the historical and museological value of the material – and also represent the historical outcomes to its communities in the form of a publication relating to the First World War commemorations.
The SOFO archive contains significant quantities of ‘hidden’ documentary, photographic and ephemeral evidence relating to the operations of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry during the First World War. Its battalions operated in Iraq, Salonika, The Balkans and Russia during 1914-19. Much of the related material remains uninterpreted and unrepresented to its communities. The research would interpret the content of this material, assessing the extent to which it adds to the historiography of these campaigns, so offering the potential for new and exciting interpretations and an original publication.
SOFO is currently experiencing a particularly high volume of requests from the public for information about the activities of its regiments, stimulated by media activity related to commemoration of The First World War. These include requests for information about soldiers’ biographical information, individual battalions’ activities and the interpretation of artefacts, ephemera and documents. This work is carried out by a growing number of volunteers who lack the knowledge, expertise and research methodology to answer these requests in an effective manner.
Through a series of lectures, seminars and workshops, academic staff and postgraduate researchers will enable SOFO’s volunteers to support this work, enhance their knowledge of the First World War beyond the western front and augment their capacity to manage requests efficiently. The volunteers will work alongside the academic partner to carry out this research, adding some local, specialised knowledge of their own to the joint venture.
In addition, the volunteers will receive training from a specialist Great War researcher, the better to meet the needs of visitors and supplement the necessary skill set to research individual soldiers and demands of the proposed project. They will also receive training from a museum conservator to better understand artefact conservation, interpretation and representation. This will enable them to meet the museological demands of managing burgeoning donations from the public and the capacity to deliver high quality conservation in a museum aspiring for accreditation.
SOFO staff, board and donors will be invited to the lecture and seminar programme, enhancing their understanding of current First World War academic research in relation to future exhibition design and the needs of audiences. The wider Oxfordshire community will be offered the chance to participate also.
Lead Academics: Dr Natalie Braber and Professor Bill Niven (Nottingham Trent University)
Community Partner: Pomegranate Youth Theatre
Playwright: Louise Page
This project explores the relationship between anti-German propaganda and violence against German citizens living in the East Midlands during the First World War through a combination of research and the writing and performance of a play with a local youth theatre. The play will examine how the spread of anti-German feeling was experienced by members of the German diaspora in Britain. In Chesterfield and the surrounding area, for example, German butchers had their shops stoned and windows broken in response to the sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915. Germans who had been living in the UK for many years, some who had come to escape persecution in Germany, lost their jobs, were arrested and interned and suffered discrimination. This side of WW1 is not frequently remembered or discussed when looking at this period in time.
Anti-German propaganda was rife and aspects of such discrimination continues in the UK today with treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. This project will work with a local Chesterfield youth theatre group to examine what life was like for such Germans and how this can inform us about prejudice and discrimination more generally. The participants in the youth group will be co-producers of the work and the performance will encourage interaction with a wide audience to discuss these themes.
Lead Academics: Dr Caroline Bressey (University College London), Dr Jacqueline Jenkinson (University of Stirling) and Professor David Killingray (Goldsmith’s)
Community Partner: ReelMCR
Filmmakers: Vanessa Kirkpatrick and Paul Sapin
This project is devising a feature-length drama documentary about Britain’s first race riots that occurred across the country from 1919 and continued for over a year and a half. Black colonial people had volunteered for the British Army and Royal Navy during the First World War because they regarded themselves as Britons, as integral members of the empire and loyal subjects of the crown. A significant number joined the ranks of the regular British armed forces; as opposed to involvement in native regiments and labour battalions. As an example, more than 1 in 7 of the many hundreds of male black colonial British residents in Liverpool, served in Britain’s regular armed forces in the First World War.
Following the Armistice, mass demobilisation caused unemployment, displacement and housing shortages, which provoked outbreaks of social unrest, strikes and rioting across Britain – and specifically ‘race riots ’ in the seaports when large crowds of white people focused wider frustrations over unemployment on the black population and other ethnic minorities perceived to be outsiders. This period of history in the immediate aftermath of the First World War is little known yet it is a vital backdrop to understanding the contribution to the war effort made by the black population living in Britain at the time.
The disturbances throw into relief the 20th century Britain issues of immigration, settlement and repatriation. As such, our film explores themes of citizenship, migration and belonging and that have a strong contemporary resonance in 21st century Britain.
The aim of the project is to produce a short film as the first stage towards creating a feature length drama documentary. The film will provide a vivid, dramatic and accurate insight into the causes of the riots, the emotional impact and tragic consequences and the solutions proffered and imposed by the authorities to bring the riots to an end.
Employing dramatic reconstruction and the use of primary material such as witness accounts and newspaper archive, the short film is a composite of the true stories of several lives and follows these individuals – men and women – during the riots.
The project group comprises leading academics who are experts in this relatively unexplored period of history, community partners who have access to rare archive material as well as strong links to their own local communities for the purposes of engagement and distribution – and film and writing professionals who can produce a unique and revelatory piece of work that will inform and lever funding for the feature length drama documentary.
It is proposed that the longer film, a legacy of this project, will be distributed to film festivals, broadcasters, Centre For Hidden Histories’ events and partners. It will also be used as a resource for community groups and education establishments and that supplementary material will be available. The overarching objective is to produce a film that brings to life this period of history, which is complex and traumatic, and to provide a body of work that through collaboration with academic and community partners provides a lasting legacy
Derby Green Spaces
Lead Academics: Professor Paul Elliott and Mark Knight (University of Derby)
Community Partners: Spiral Arts and Derbyshire Lives Through the First World War
By the outbreak of war in 1914, most British towns had at least one significant public park and like other public institutions, these were caught up in some of the reactions and ambiguities of the home front, and were utilised both in support of the war effort in various ways. Parks were employed as places of recruitment for the armed forces, and with casualties, food shortages, rationing and in some cases direct enemy attacks such as Zeppelin and aeroplane bombings, the war impacted upon them in various ways. They were also requisitioned for various purposes including military (such as anti- Zeppelin and aircraft guns), defensive, governmental, medical and for food production, particularly after the Defence of the Realm Act or (DORA) was passed in August 1914. They helped maintain morale when some other forms of recreation were curtailed, were places where civilian and military populations on leave or recuperating could temporarily escape from some of the demands of war and even resist authority and sometimes served as venues for anti-war and pacifist meetings and demonstrations too. Finally, parks served as places of memorialisation.
This project aims to investigate how much these development were replicated in Derby’s public parks during the War and its immediate aftermath, and to present the research results in an artistically imaginative way (including a banner) with community co-production. It is led by Spiral Arts, a visual artistic group with considerable experience of working with community groups on similar projects who are based in the Derby Arboretum, assisted by Mark Knight a history PhD student at Derby University and Paul Elliott, a history academic, with advice from Glynn Wilton of the Heritage Lottery-funded Derbyshire Lives Through the First World War project.
The project will engage with as many other community groups and volunteers as possible through a range of activities, including local schools, groups meeting in the Heart of Park building at the Arboretum, and other friends of parks organisations from across the city. Given that Derby made a major industrial contribution to the war effort, particularly through the Midland Railway Carriage and Waggon Works, Rolls Royce and various munitions factories and the fact that many of their employees were protected from military service because of the importance of their industries, the role of parks in furthering this work and supporting other aspects of society will be one consideration. The project will examine the impact of labour depletion, financial constraints, rationing, and defensive measures and direct attacks upon Derby including the Zeppelin raid of 1916. The way that Derby parks were used for leisure and as places for veterans and memorialisation in the aftermath of the War with trophy guns and other military hardware placed within will receive attention. Various sources will be utilised including local government records, newspapers, memoirs and histories of various companies in the town during the war and the project will culminate in a series of community events in the summer of 2016, at one of which in August, the banner will be unveiled at the Derby Arboretum anniversary event as part of an exhibition showcasing the other results of the work in other forms including information boards.
Lead Academic: Professor Kurt Barling (Middlesex University)
Community Partner: Eastside Community Heritage
The Middlesex Regiment was one of the principal regiments based in the Home Counties. It recruited from a wide-cross section of society from the Public Schools battalions to football team like Tottenham Hotspur. It was a regiment with a long and proud history. During the Great War many recruits came from the Old Commonwealth Dominions and elsewhere in the British Empire. Battalions were sent to India in 1911 and fought right across the Western Front from January 1915. The battlefield cemeteries of France and Belgium house tens of thousands of Middlesex Regiment fallen.
This project is a collaboration between Middlesex University and Eastside Community Heritage that emerged from a Heritage Lottery Fund project to train new researchers (undergraduates and volunteers) to work in public archives to build up the stories of up to 20 soldiers who came from outside these islands to fight. These new researchers undertook training and developed skills in archive research, oral history telling and working in museum spaces to curate an exhibition at Bruce Castle Museum in Tottenham, North London. With support from the Centre for Hidden Histories, the project is now building a broader partnership between University and community organisations with a view to building a research base which could for example eventually investigate and disseminate marginalised narratives.
The team are creating materials for a pop-up exhibition and pack so that schools with particularly diverse student populations can use the material as teaching aids. They are establishing a network of schools to engage with and plan to use existing resources through the Widening Participation department at Middlesex and links with the Bruce Castle Museum schools programme.
Original video interviews with descendants of WW1 soldiers have been been gathered and are intended to be used in the creation of a 8-10 minute documentary that can be integrated into the schools workshop offering and become part of the education package with the pop-up exhibition. A symposium is planned for March/April 2016 will use these materials to discuss building networks and sharing methodologies to build on public engagement and impact work. WW1 work for the next two years of AHRC research funding for 2017-18.
Lead Academic: Dr Robert Hearn (University of Nottingham)
Community Partner: Honorary Consul of Italy in Nottingham
This project explores the memories and commemoration of the conflict amongst Italians in the East Midlands by way of a large-scale oral history project co-conducted by researchers at the University of Nottingham and partners in the British Italian community. This unique research project aims to make a series of contributions to explorations into the ‘hidden histories’ of the experience and memory of World War One amongst migrant groups in the UK, seeking to challenge traditional narratives surrounding the conflict.
The empirical data will be co-collected by academic and community partners in order to assure the mutual acquisition of new skills, training and insights. The data collected will inform articles to be published in scholarly journals and papers presented to diverse local and national audiences, as will the analysis of the experiences gained from the academic-community partnership. The project will culminate in a public engagement event entitled ‘BrItaly Day’, co-ordinated by the academic and community partners. Alongside the presentation of the research findings and providing for Italian community members the opportunity to share memories and material culture relating to World War One, this event will feature a workshop on ‘doing’ public, oral history projects so that these skills maintain resonance in the community.
Knockaloe in Local, National and Global Context
Lead Academic: Professor Panikos Panayi (De Montfort University)
Community Partner: Knockaloe Internment Camp & Patrick Visitor Centre, Isle of Man
Knockaloe, an internment camp on the Isle of Man, is a permanent site of memory for the 30,000+ internees, as well as the 5,000+ guards, who moved into their village 100 years ago. Knockaloe became the most important site of internment in the British Empire and perhaps in the entire world during WW1. This project is the first genuine effort to commemorate the site that housed Germans, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman citizens from all over the world.
A Registered Charity has been set up by the local community of Patrick Village to develop a Visitors’ Centre in the historic Patrick Schoolroom and to create a database archive of the internees who passed through Knockaloe. This project seeks to extend this database to bring together in one location information on all ‘enemy aliens’ resident in Britain in 1914, the majority of which spent some time in Knockaloe. This will bring into one location the fragmentary information from worldwide museums, archives, ancestry databases and private collections and, most importantly, from the descendants themselves.
This work moves away from the traditional Armistice Day celebrations by focusing upon the enemy populations in Britain, which totalled over 60,000 people at the outbreak of the Great War, especially by concentrating upon the main site of both British and imperial internment. By focusing especially upon the experiences of enemy aliens, the project will help to demonstrate the diversity of experiences in Britain during the Great War, which did not simply mean service on the western front or ‘useful’ wartime employment, but could also mean incarceration of individuals who had lived in Great Britain for decades.
In demonstrating both the national and international origins of the internees, some of whom faced arrest in the German and British Empires, as well as on the high seas, therefore placing the Knockaloe camp in international context, the project will help to demonstrate the global nature of the First World War. It will show how the worldwide voluntary migration which had helped to create the German and other migrant communities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries turned to one of forced migration, both within Great Britain and from further afield, as migrants faced relocation not just on the Isle of Man but in internment camps run by the British imperial authorities throughout the world.
The project will also help to demonstrate how connected communities can become disconnected as a result of the intolerance caused by the nationalistic hatred which evolved during the First World War which meant that integrated Germans who had often married Britons and who, in some cases, had sons serving with British forces on the Western Front and elsewhere, became marginalised to the extent that public opinion and government felt that they needed separation form the ethnic majority through internment
These records will be collated on a spreadsheet developed by the Charity, to allow flexibility as increasing types of data are sourced. Subsequent phases of the database will allow the archive to become fully searchable and for data to be added directly by descendants via the Charity’s website. Setting the experience of these internees within the context of the British Empire, Professor Panayi will write a 120,000 word monograph together with Stefan Manz (Aston) on the internment of Germans on an imperial scale during the First World War.
Panayi and Manz, working on the theme of ‘Enemies in the Empire: Interning German ‘Enemy Aliens’ during the First World War’, have already received funding from the Gerda Henkel Foundation and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and which Panayi and Manz will write up as a 120,000 word monograph by the end of 2016. In addition, Panayi will present a paper on Ahmednagar (the main site of internment in India), at the European Social Science History Conference in Valencia in April 2016.