‘Away from the Western Front’ invites community choirs, musicians, singers and brass bands to perform its new First World War song ‘No Parades’

West Indians in the First World War (IWM Q 52423)

With ‘Pack Up Your Troubles’ and ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’ we all know songs which grew out of the First World War. Now, Away from the Western Front, a National Lottery-funded project is adding a new song to the collection, but with a very different angle. Choirs, musicians, singers and brass bands are all invited to contribute performances of this new song to the First World War ‘Away from the Western Front’ project. ‘No Parades’, composed by Chris Hoban who has written for acclaimed folk band ‘Show of Hands’, has been inspired by the experience of West Indian men who fought in the First World War.

Two battalions of the British West Indies Regiment served in Palestine and Egypt, and at the end of the war they joined the rest of the Regiment in the Italian port of Taranto. After poor treatment by their British officers the soldiers mutinied, demanding equal pay and conditions to the white troops they had served beside for four years. The mutineers were punished and the Regiment disbanded, sent home under guard and barred from the victory parades. The song continues the story:

From the islands and mainland we came
To fight and to show our allegiance
But returned to our homelands in shame
While for some there’ll be honour and glory
The West Indian will have no parades

Musicians, community choirs and brass bands can join the project in two different ways. They can record their performances of ‘No Parades’ by using the score and lyrics provided or use the song and accompanying information on the ‘Away from the Western Front’ website to inspire their own compositions and submit those. The project will produce a CD of the best performances, as well as promoting the performances through the website and social media.

The song has been written in several formats including mixed choir, solo voice with piano, male voice choir and brass band, and also has a version in the style of ‘Mento’, a forerunner of Calypso and Reggae. It forms the centrepiece of an exciting national music project which aims to highlight the often overlooked history of the wider First World War.

Robin Clutterbuck, the project’s National Coordinator said: “Colonial troops played a very big part in the campaigns away from the Western Front, in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), East Africa and the Balkans. The experience of West Indian men was similar to that of Indians and black Africans, and for some led to feelings of anger and disappointment after the war due to the way they were treated once their assistance was no longer required”.

The music project is part of the major national ‘Away from the Western Front’ project, which aims to increase understanding of what made the conflict into a World War. Local and regional partners in Devon, Lancashire, Berkshire, Sussex and London are studying different aspects of the wider war. Local museums and National Trust properties in these areas are working with community groups, youth groups and schools with funding from the HLF grant to research the lives and stories of those who served in these far away campaigns. Those stories are being 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.

For more information about how to participate in this exciting project and to listen to our demo of the song please visit https://awayfromthewesternfront.org/projects/national-music-project/ or contact info@awayfromthewesternfront.org

Event: We Will Remember Them Exhibition

William Robinson Clarke WW1 RAF pilot from Jamaica, photo courtesy of the Royal Aero club

LAUNCH EVENT:

Friday 22nd September 6:30pm

New Art Exchange

39-40 Gregory Boulevard, Nottingham NG9 6BE

The We Will Remember Them project, funded by the Centre for Hidden Histories, aims to uncover hidden narratives that will strengthen the coverage of under-represented groups in relation to the centenary of the Great War. Empire troops fought in the most infamous battles of the war, including at Ypres and Passhendaele, but the hidden histories of soldiers from the Caribbean and South Asia still need to be recovered and their stories told, not only in scholarly monographs but in other cultural forms too.  Consequently, this project aims to ensure that we try to avoid the real risk that younger generations will conceive of the war as fought entirely by white soldiers.

The research output has been constituted in the form of a travelling exhibition which will facilitate the general public becoming (more) aware of the courage, sacrifice and stories of “Commonwealth” soldiers. The exhibition will tour the East Midlands and London and will launch at New Art Exchange on the 22nd September.

Following the launch, the exhibition will travel to the following venues:

  • 25th-29th September Nottm. County Hall, West Bridgeford NG2 7QP
  • 2nd-5th October Clifton Cornerstone, Southchurch Drive, Clifton NG11 8EW
  • 6th-12th October Bulwell Riverside, Main Street NG6 8QL
  • 12th-18th October Mary Potter Centre, 76 Gregory Blvd. NG7 5YH
  • 18th-23rd October Nottm. Central Library, Angel Row NG1 6HP
  • 23rd-26th October Nottm. City Council, Loxley House, Station Street NG2 3NG
  • 27th October-1st November St Anns Valley Centre, 2 Livingston Rd NG3 3GG

Please contact nottinghamblackarchive@gmail.com for more information.

This project is delivered in association with Renaissance One

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

Away from the Western Front project

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).

British Indian Army entering Baghdad with Gen Maude 1917
British Indian Army entering Baghdad with Gen Maude 1917

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.

Ottoman wounded after Tikrit 1917 (IWM Q24439)
Ottoman wounded after Tikrit 1917 (IWM Q24439)

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.

 

 

 

 

Study and Community Events: Leeds, October 2016

Study and Community Events: Leeds, October 2016

On 21st and 22nd October, the Centre was very pleased to support a pair of events in partnership with Leeds City Museum. The events, which were held as part of Black History Month, were designed to examine histories and perspectives that are often overlooked.

The Study Day
The Study Day

On the Friday, a study day, entitled ‘Global Perspectives on World War One, was held at the museum. Papers were presented from a variety of speakers on a wide range of topics including how Black Soldiers and the wider African and Caribbean communities helped Britain during two World Wars, the life of Leeds Pal, Private Jogendra Sen, Chinese Perspectives on the Great War and female nurses’ relationships with non-white soldiers.

Staff from the National Archives, provided insights into the material that they hold on West Africa and South Asia and discussed the challenges of researching this area of the war and the value of examining the war through the themes loyalty and dissent.

On the Saturday, the museum opened its magnificent Broderick Hall for a community day called ‘Peoples’ Pathways: Soldiers from Overseas in World War One’. This event was largely performance-based, with music, spoken word and interactive talks.

Russell Smith as 2nd Lt Walter Tull
Russell Smith as 2nd Lt Walter Tull

Community historian Jahan Mahmood brought items from his travelling military museum and gave an illuminating talk on Muslim perspectives on the war. Russell Smith performed a monologue in character as Walter Tull, footballer and British Army officer and the event was rounded off with a beautiful performance of the World War One inspired Sacred Songs by Alchemy and SAA UK.

The topics were intentionally varied but nevertheless a few connecting themes emerged. One was the sheer range of stories that can be told about the war; so many that it’s possible to see the First World War not as one conflict, but many. It is important to reflect on these multiple ways of seeing history, not least because it confirms the value in having so many people take the time to explore the aspect of the war that most interests them.

Another theme to emerge was the depth of history required to even begin exploring the war. Most of the sessions examined histories with connections to the histories of empire and colonialism. Any thorough reflection of the global First World War must necessarily begin with the history of the European empires and the patterns of movement and control that developed way before 1914. So too is the history of Black and Asian people in Britain. This is also a long-term history and one that supports the view that the First World War is but a moment in a far longer set of stories about how people, willingly or otherwise, come together and find themselves sharing a common, albeit distinctive, histories.