To commemorate the centenary the First World War, artists and communities in Shropshire are working in partnership to plan and deliver a programme of heritage and arts activities to remember the impact of the war.
This project has been funded by Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund. Listed below are details of project partners and summaries of the activities and performances. Follow this link to see a film of some of these fantastic projects. https://youtu.be/BO7xh7U6Ihw
‘In the Hands of Boys’ : Shropshire Boys Dancing
Shropshire Council has received a £10,000 National Lottery grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the ‘In the Hands of Boys’, project, commemorating the centenary of the First World War.
Awarded through HLF’s First World War then and now programme, the project is using dance, poetry and photography to share stories about Shropshire’s involvement in the war.
Over 80 boys and young men from six schools across the county are working with creative practitioners, heritage specialists and using archive and museum resources to explore and re-interpret key aspects of the war and their local relevance to Shropshire.
Each school is focusing on a particular aspect of the war in Shropshire, including; KSLI (The Kings Shropshire Light Infantry) collections at Shropshire Regimental Museum, Stokesay Court one of several convalescent hospitals in Shropshire, Shropshire Archives, exploring experiences of soldiers and those at home, Trenches through the Ages (Park Hall, Oswestry), RAF Museum Cosford and the role of trains at Severn Valley Railway.
With support from heritage professionals and artists, participants are creating a dance performance, which will be shown at Theatre Severn on Sunday 12th November 2017, a touring exhibition that will combine images of the past with those of the present, using dance as the medium to create them and a book.
A few tickets are left for the Theatre Severn performance. Book via Theatre Severn
Wilfred Owen 100
Shropshire-born poet and soldier Wilfred Owen is known throughout the World as one of the greatest World War I poets. He was born at Plas Wilmot near Oswestry in March 1893. His father Thomas worked on the railways and after spells at Birkenhead and Shrewsbury the family moved back to Shropshire’s county town in 1907 where Wilfred was educated at Shrewsbury Technical School (later The Wakeman School). He enlisted in the army in 1915 and was killed in action in France on 4th November 1918. During a period of convalescence at Craiglockhart he met Siegfried Sassoon who influenced his poetry. Only five of Owen’s poems were published in his lifetime.
In recent times Owen has been depicted on film and in TV documentaries and his poems have been set to music.
For a full biography visit Wilfred Owen biography
To watch Jeremy Paxman’s documentary about Wilfred Owen visit YouTube
To read more about the plans to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Wilfred Owen’s death visit:-
Pentabus have commission Rory Mullarkey to create Each Slow Dusk, a new play for the village hall circuit to tour from autumn 2014. This new play is a contemporary story about the impact war had, and continues to have, on rural communities. It explores how the armed services came to be reliant on recruitment from former farming communities as industrialization transformed the rural workforce. It will bring the story right up to date, acknowledging the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in the same year and exploring what that might mean for young people living and working in the countryside today. It will be an important tour to chime with the 40th year of the company’s existence.
Shrewsbury Sixth Form and Carl Jaycock, “Youth of Europe Remembering”
A multi-media piece of work was created featuring the life and work of Wilfred OwenFirstNames: Wilfred Edward Salter
Surname: Owen, M.C.
Service: British Army
CorpsRegimentShip: Artist's Rifles
Complete the story on Lives and his key messages with regard to war.
Students from Shrewsbury Sixth Form College worked with students from colleges in Le Cateau in France, and Walldorf in Germany. The work was shown to the local people of Shrewsbury and Shropshire in the new museum and art gallery in the Music Hall, Shrewsbury. Stimuli for the work was gained from visits, talks, films, theatrical works and visits to the Imperial War Museum in Manchester.
QUBE Community Arts Project
A digital installation created by artists Justin Cliff and Peter Farago. This work celebrates the remarkable story of Sir Robert Jones and Dame Agnes Hunt, pioneers who revolutionised modern orthopaedics and nursing rehabilitation.
The project has presented, for today’s audience, forgotten local stories and information from WWI and increase public understanding of the life-changing events of WWI and how they radically affected society as a whole as well as local communities, families and individuals.
Weekends of events commencing in November 2014, are planned each year. In 2014 a series of events were based around the story of a lost letter and how the British and German forces famously laid down their arms to come together in no man’s land to play a game of football. This included a stage performance of The Best Christmas Present in the World by Michael Morpurgo who was accompanied by Virginia McKenna and by the a cappella group Coope, Boyes and Simpson. This features the football match and a lost letter from one of the British soldiers to his fiancé waiting back home.
Further information: Caroline Thewles tel 01743 353424 www.shrewsburybookfest.co.uk
Eye Witness – digital arts project led by MediaActive
Eye Witness is a creative arts and heritage project working with young people, historians, creative practitioners, archives and museums, looking at how experiences and events of the First World War were documented, interpreted and presented to the world.
The project will consider contemporary approaches to documentary and commentary, and the potential use of social media, mobile technologies and moving image for digital story making and self-publishing across multiple platforms.
Update – January 2018
Eyewitness – Champions of Flight
This project has seen an array of artworks made by young people as a response to the history of the air services during World War I, and the subsequent birth of the RAF in 1918.
The works recognise the courage and skills of those early pilots, who served their country not only during wartime, but also as champions of flight technology and civil aviation.
Using a variety of approaches, including film and animation, over 50 young people aged 10 to 22 years, and participating in their own time, have created high quality, accessible and engaging artworks.
Working with artists and filmmakers, with RAF veterans and their families, and with flight specialists, archives and museums, the young creatives have uncovered some of the hidden stories of those early pioneers of flight – from World War I trainee pilot to post war Flying Circus showman, and beyond.
All the artworks made through the project can be viewed here:
“No Man’s Land” – Boys Dancing
The ‘No Man’s Land’ performance was on Saturday 12th July 2014.
Over four months, 90 boys from schools across Shropshire worked with professional dance artist Mark Anderson to create a unique dance performance, performed at Theatre Severn. The dance explored; How do we learn to live, eat, sleep, exist, even co-exist next to our enemy? What happens when the end of the tunnel is not in sight for all those involved in the conflict? Do you ever meet on common ground in No Man’s Land?
The dance performance was performed in the Walker Theatre at Theatre Severn, to a sell-out audience and included original film footage and images of World War One, provided by IWM (Imperial War Museum).
An artefact enquiry box has been developed for Key Stage 1 & 2 which is available for schools to borrow. The contents include artefacts, documents, photographs and guidance notes and explores stories Shropshire people whose lives were affected by the war.
Working closely with teachers, a range of educational resources are being produced. The resources will be targeted for both primary and secondary schools following the revised national curriculum’s emphasis on a local study, and will draw on the wealth of museum and archival material held by the project partners.
Currently there are four schemes of work written for schools, all available to subscribing schools on the Shropshire Learning Gateway at www.shropshirelg.net
‘My Dearest Girls: The Letters Book.’
A dramatic one woman performance based on research into Shropshire‘s First World War stories. My Dearest Girls: The Letters Book uses a letters book from Shropshire Archives (SA ref. MI 7231) as original source material. Written between 1917 and 1920, the letters book contains the letters of six young women connected by schooling together in Bridgnorth. While two of the girls remain in Shropshire, the others have moved to London, Birmingham, Bury St. Edmunds and Kent, offering different views and perspectives of the war years in town, city and country.
Working with Arts Alive, Francesca Millican-Slater has developed two performances that tell the stories of women living and working during World War I.
Performance 1: My Dearest Girls: Helen’s Story. A short (approximately 25 minute) solo piece which focuses on Helen of Brockton, Much Wenlock. This draws on agricultural themes, women working on the land, the impact of the war on family and farm, and Helen’s wait for news from The Front.
Performance 2: My Dearest Girls: The Letters Book. The second piece is a full length (up to 90 minutes) performance. More theatrical in its ambitions in set and staging it tells the stories of the six women across county, town and country as their friendships evolve, history happens and the war begins to draw to a close.
Trenches through the Ages
This is a recreation of a trench system which is providing an educational visitor attraction at Park Hall Countryside Experience near Oswestry. Park Hall played an important role in the First World War as one of the largest training camps in the country established in 1915. Huge numbers of soldiers, including Wilfred Owen, spent time at the camp on their way to the front.
A comprehensive First World War trench system has been constructed including an element relating to subsequent trench build designs. The overall aim is to create both an educational and experiential perspective of trench construction methods, as well as a life in the trenches, whilst leaving long term and sustainable legacies for future generations to learn and enjoy.
War Walks on the Home Front
A programme of guided walks organised across the county have highlighted significant wartime themes and individual experiences. Together they tell the story of life on the Home Front during the First World War and its immediate aftermath.
The topics covered include agricultural production, forest output, quarries, railways, auxiliary military hospitals, conscientious objection and many war memorials. Wilfred Owen’s poetry and life will also provides a running thread through the walks.
Wherever possible the walks have been based upon or linked to the work of other project partners. Copies of the walk leaflets can be downloaded from www.shropshiresgreatoutdoors.co.uk/walking/war-walks/
Research into Shropshire First World War Lives
The website includes the Shropshire Roll of Honour, recording all those who lost their lives in the county. In addition to those who died, the lives and experiences of those who served and survived, and those who experienced the war through work on the home front, are also being researched and included.
The Pity of War – choral work by St Chads Music Festival and Gateway Productions
A brand new piece of work is to be commissioned to commemorate Shropshire’s most famous WWI hero, Wilfred Owen. A collection of his works will be set to music for choir, orchestra and readers. Wilfred Owen died on Nov 4 1918 and it proposed that there would be two performances in St Chad’s Church on the weekend of this 100th anniversary. One week before the 100th Armistice Day, the day the letter arrived in Shrewsbury from the war office to Owen’s Mother.
The aim is to create new music for this commemorative piece to accompany the poems and to find professional classical actors to deliver some of them as the spoken word. In addition local musicians to make up the orchestra and also a community choir. A selection of young people would also be invited to read some of the work, reminding us that so many young people were lost in this Great War.
“The First Casualty of War is Truth”
An exhibition by re:collect, a group of contemporay artists working in a variety of media. This group show was exhibited at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery and is touring other venues.
The artworks aimed to expose some of the truths obscured by time and to respond to the notion “the first casualty of war is truth”.