At the Centre for Hidden Histories led Discovery Day in Leicester (4 September 2017), I was fortunate to catch-up with Associate Professor Nigel Hunt about the ‘Belper in Wartime’ project. This project arose from a Centre for Hidden Histories event in Chesterfield. Nigel met Adrian Farmer, a representative of Belper’s World War One Working Group. At the start of the Centenary, this group had won a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to research the individuals listed on the Belper War Memorial and produce a community history book about ‘Belper in Wartime’. Nigel suggested that as a follow-on project, the Belper Working Group should collaborate with the Centre for Hidden Histories and research life in Belper after the First World War. A key research question would be to consider how men returning from the trenches adapted or struggled to reintegrate into postwar Belper community life. Newspapers have been a key source of information for this project as has witness testimony recorded from descendants.
The research uncovered for this project will be integrated into a community history book that Adrian Farmer is writing at the moment. There is another exhibition in Belper scheduled for November 2017 and the group also plan to hold a First World War film screening at the local cinema. Commenting on the importance of Centre for Hidden Histories support, Adrian noted: “Funding has allowed us to buy appropriate equipment for displays and audio recordings, so we’re better able to engage the public in the project. We’ve been able to put on more events, raising the profile of the work we’ve been doing, and engage with people we wouldn’t have been aware of without those exhibitions and events.”
Reflecting on his collaboration with the group, Nigel commented, “I think it’s worked quite well the link between academia and community…because they are such a well formed group.”
To watch a film about these First World War projects in Belper, which includes interviews with Nigel and Adrian, click on this link