In Flux – First Public Performance

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.

For more information and to book tickets, please visit the Nottingham Playhouse website

Workshops: The First World War and the Middle East

2016 sees the centenary of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the secret agreement by which the Entente powers, chiefly Britain and France, organised their intentions for the Middle East once the Ottoman Empire fell.

It was a significant moment in international relations and the development of the postwar system and is of particular interest at the moment, not just because of the centenary, but also the huge ramifications that it has had on the present day, in the Middle East and beyond.

The Centre intends to use the moment of the centenary to explore and discuss Sykes-Picot, the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the long term impact of the First World War on a region that isn’t always associated with that conflict in the wider public imagination.

Persian man posing for a photograph. Note a truck with British troops in the background. The Service of the 9th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment in the Persian Campaign, 1918. IWM Q 73032
Persian man posing for a photograph. Note a truck with British troops in the background. The Service of the 9th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment in the Persian Campaign, 1918. IWM Q 73032

The Centre’s first public activities will take place in York on the 26th April. There are three linked events taking place, you can book for all three, or for each one individually.

The morning workshop will draw on the King’s Book of York Heroes and local research current, recent and future, focusing on the Middle East. The afternoon will lead on from this to more general discussions of World War One and the Middle East, including Yorkshire’s involvement and implications for today. Famous Yorkies such as Sir Mark Sykes, Gertrude Bell, and even Lawrence of Arabia and Bridlington will attend. ISIS will no doubt be mentioned!

There will be exhibitions throughout the day, along with lots of sources familiar and unfamiliar. We hope the day will generate enthusiasm and interest to follow up these ideas so it has a lasting legacy.

Details are still being confirmed, and may well be changed. Draft programmes are below.

MORNING:

9am: set up exhibits

9.30-10.30:  Coffee & Registration: Network and view exhibits

10.30-12.30 (with break):  Introduction: Themes of today and of the BABITME conference

  • The King’s Book of York Heroes.
    • What is it?
    • What has been done with it so far? Research from Fulford, Bishopthorpe, Copmanthorpe
    • What remains to be done? Digitisaton? A digital database? Linking with other data sources?

12.30: Lunch (free if booked). Network and view exhibits

AFTERNOON:

1.30-5.30 (with breaks): Several themes such as the following

  • Middle East and the decline of the Ottoman Empire, 1900-1920
  • What happened? Different perspectives (Ottoman, German, Russian, French)
  • Sykes-Picot (16 May 1916)
  • Yorkshire links with the Middle East
  • The East Riding Yeomanry in Egypt and Palestine
  • Gertrude Bell, Mark Sykes, Wass Reader (a Hull soldier writes home)
  • Possible future research.
  • Yorkshire Quakers, pacifism, and the Middle East
  • Presentations from the Rowntree Society (York)
  • Contribution from Cyril Pearce (world-renowned expert on the history of pacifism – see below)
  • Prospects and sources for future research
Sykes Picot Agreement Map
Sykes Picot Agreement Map

The evening lecture (7.30) relates to pacifism in World War One and is hosted by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society (details here). The speaker, Cyril Pearce, is world-renowned. Workshop attendees will be entitled to attend this lecture without charge.

All events are in central York. Morning and afternoon workshops are at Clements Hall, just 800 yards from York Railway station – turn right as you come out of the station, curve left and go over the bridge, cross in front of Micklegate Bar, then walk 200 yards along Nunnery Lane, turn right along Dale Street, and Clements Hall is at the end on your left. If you are parking, park in Nunnery Lane car park (fees apply).The evening event is in the Yorkshire Museum (see details below).

The entire day links with the themes of the “Borders and Beyond in the Middle East” (BABITME) conference in York in mid-June (details here). Those attending on 26 April will be entitled to free and reduced-fee tickets to BABITME (normal price £100).

We hope that you will decide to stay for the entire day on April 26th, but booking will be possible for each session separately.

 

Winston Churchill: Size 46

Winston Churchill: Size 46

Churchill visiting the Enfield Lock Munitions Works, 1915
Churchill the politician visiting the Enfield Lock Munitions Works, 1915

Winston Churchill is indelibly associated with the Second World War, and with good reason. As Prime Minister of Britain from 1940-45, he took a leading role in the conflict. However, he also had significant role in the First World War and one that is rather less celebrated.

In 1914 Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty and took part in the debates and arguments that concerned British involvement. He was also a staunch advocate of the development of the tank, then still referred to as ‘landships’. However, he is perhaps better known (or more notorious) for his masterminding of the failed Dardanelles campaign and the Gallipoli landings, which were tragic disasters for the Allied cause.

Seeking to make amends for his failures, Churchill left the government and took a commission in the Army, serving as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Scots Fusiliers on the Western Front. He remained there until 1916 and, after winning the trust of new Prime Minister David Lloyd George, he returned to government, initially as Minister of Munitions.

After the war he was appointed Secretary of State for Air and War and attended peace talks in Paris in 1919 at which he warned of the dangers of Bolshevism. His opposition to the Soviet system remained with him even after he was forced to make common cause with the Soviet Union in the defeat of Hitler.

Churchill with the Royal Scots Fusiliers at Ploegsteert. 1916
Churchill the soldier with the Royal Scots Fusiliers at Ploegsteert. 1916

Artist Joy Pitts, whose work we covered in an earlier blog post, has started work on a piece to commemorate Churchill. The work, currently titled ‘Size 46’ will focus on Churchill’s very particular style.

The project has been made possible through collaboration with his preferred outfitters. Churchill was certainly a man of style, choosing Henry Poole & Co, the most famous Savile Row tailor to measure, cut, fit and sew his bespoke three-piece suits.
Turnbull & Asser of Jermyn Street were also favoured by Churchill, pattern cutting and crafting his shirts and spot silk bow ties. Later referring to Churchill simply as size 46 and designing his famous ‘siren suit’.
Our vision of Churchill today would certainly not be complete without the addition of a Homburg hat, first ordered by Churchill from Lock & Co Hatters at No. 6 St. James’s Street, London in 1911. Now the oldest hat shop in the world.

The artwork in progress
The artwork in progress

Henry Poole & Co, Turnbull & Asser and Lock & Co Hatters are proud to have been of service to Churchill and are delighted to supply their bespoke labels for inclusion in his portrait. The result will be a contemporary image of Britain’s greatest war leader, portrayed through dress and reflecting on quality couture craftsmanship.
Once assembled using thousands of dressmaker pins the portrait will be exhibited in London in 2016

For more details and to see the work develop, please follow Joy’s blog

Thomas Porteous Black, a Nottingham man at Gallipoli

The cap badge of the Sherwood Foresters, Black's regiment.
The cap badge of the Sherwood Foresters, Black’s regiment.

John Beckett recounts the story of Thomas Porteous Black, the Registrar of University College Nottingham, who fought at Gallipoli.

 

The commemoration on 25 April 2015 of the centenary of Gallipoli, reminds us that white British casualties were found in places other than the trenches of the Western Front. The conflict itself is often viewed as being about the Australian and New Zealand troops, who went into action in Europe for the first time. ‘The ordeal of courageous Anzac troops under the command of bungling British generals has become the stuff of legend’ according to The Times (25 April 2015). By contrast, Britain has not made a great deal of the campaign, which was seen as botched, primarily by Winston Churchill, who had seen it as a way of opening a new front in the Eastern Mediterranean. Britain sent a 75,000 strong Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, which included British, Irish, French, Australian, New Zealand and Indian troops. By August 1915 the situation was dire, with troops pinned down in a bloody stalemate, having failed to move further than three or four miles inland.

Among the casualties was Thomas Porteous Black. A native of Aberdeen, but brought up in Darlington, Black was killed at Suvla Bay on 9 August 1915, as the 9th Sherwood Foresters were ordered forward against Turkish lines near Hetman Char in the Dardanelles.

Black’s death had a particular impact on Nottingham University College because he held the position of Registrar, at that time the senior administrator of the institution. He had joined the College as a lecturer in Physics, and had been appointed Registrar in 1911. As an officer in the OTC (Officer Training Corps), he quickly became involved in the war effort, and when the war started he joined up as a Sherwood Forester. As with all of the young men who died, and who had some form of association with the College, his loss was reported to both Senate and Council and, as ever, letters of condolence were sent to his family. He is also named on the university’s war memorial in the Trent Building.

The memorial to the fallen of the OTC, Nottingham
The memorial to the fallen of the OTC, Nottingham

In Black’s case the College decided to go further and to create a scholarship fund ‘to be awarded for research and to bear his name’. A circular letter dated 20 November 1915 and signed by the College vice principal Frank Granger and by E Lawrence Manning, described as honorary secretaries and treasurers for the Black memorial award, recalled how, as registrar, he had ‘carried out duties of special responsibility with an energy, foresight and tact, which was of great value to the numerous students who entered the College during his term of office.’

The letter continued: ‘It is hoped to raise a sum of £300 with a view to establishing a scholarship to be awarded for research and to bear his name.’ More than £50 had already been donated, including £10 10s from Principal Heaton, and £5 5s from his wife. A concert was held on 25 March 1916 to raise money towards the Black Memorial Fund.

By that time the ill-fated campaign in the Dardanelles was over. The Commander-in-Chief, General Ian Hamilton was recalled in October, and an evacuation began in December, which ended on 9 January 1916.

 

And so now every April…

Anzac, the landing 1915, George Lambert
Anzac, the landing 1915, George Lambert

Like many people, I first heard And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, from the mouth of Shane MacGowan as the final track on the Pogues’ 1985 album Rum, Sodomy and the Lash. It was a moving closer and a perfect fit for a record chock-full of classic folk songs both old and new. The only thing that struck me as odd about the song was the sheer volume of Australian references coming from an Anglo-Irish band. Of course, And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda wasn’t originally a Pogues song anyway. But nor was it written by an Australian.

Eric Bogle was born in Peebles, in the Scottish Borders, in 1944. He began writing and performing folk songs while living in Scotland and continued to do so after emigrating to Australia in 1969 where he earned a living as an accountant.

In 1971 Bogle saw an Anzac march for the first time, an event that, according to the singer ‘was not as well attended or accepted as it is now’. Back then, veterans of the Gallipoli campaign were still alive to participate in the parade but Bogle’s mind was drawn to the then-current conflict in Vietnam. Motivated to write an anti-war song, Bogle nevertheless chose to portray the events of 1915 as they loomed larger in the Australian mind. Besides, as Bogle points out, ‘it doesn’t matter what war you’re writing about – the end result is exactly the bloody same: lots of dead young blokes.’

Eric Bogle
Eric Bogle

Bogle’s song, a first person biographical narrative that takes its character from living ‘the free life of a rover’ to the bloodstained sand and water of Gallipoli then back to Australia, maimed and forgotten, is a deliberate riposte to the romanticising of warfare. The protagonist is a young man who gets old very quickly and who ultimately cannot work out what the April crowds are marching for and who describes his fellow veterans as ‘the forgotten heroes of a forgotten war’.

This may have seemed likely in the early 1970s but in the decades that followed, Anzac Day, like its counterpart memorials in the UK, has grown in popular resonance. Now, in the centenary period, the Australian government will spend A$145m on commemorating the Australian involvement in the war. This weekend, 50,000 people are expected to attend the Dawn Service at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra while a service at Gallipoli itself will involve 10,500 people. In addition, a commemorative Red Poppy A$2 coin has been issued by the national mint. As with any aspect of the centenary, criticism and controversy are also in attendance, with some commentators complaining of ‘Anzac fatigue’ and others critical of attempts to commercialise the event.

Whatever your opinion of Anzac Day in 2015 -or any other year- what is certain is that it will not pass forgotten. Whether you intend to participate in a mass memorial event or just quietly consider the events of a century ago, you might find time to listen to the story of a fictional combatant performed in a song that also persists in the memory.

Here’s Eric Bogle…