Updated News 5th February 2018
Campbell College’s Men Behind The Glass Project
Living Legacies Project Officer, Michelle Young has just completed a successful series of creative and interactive drama workshops with Primary schools across East Belfast as part of Campbell College’s Men Behind The Glass project – a major restoration, education and community engagement initiative supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and focuses on the archives of this historic school.
The Men Behind the Glass involves a cross-section of schools and communities throughout East Belfast. The project, which is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, has been inspired by the WW1 heritage of the College and focuses on the photographs of 126 pupils and one member of staff who lost their lives in WW1. These pictures which are embedded in the Edwardian wood panelling in the College’s Central Hall have been deteriorating over time and the project is working with the Public Record Office in Northern Ireland (PRONI) to preserve and digitally restore the images while researchers work to uncover the real-life stories of the men – their personal family lives and their military service.
Mukesh Sharma, MBE, Committee Member for the Heritage Lottery Fund explained the importance of this project as “an exciting opportunity to open up the archives of Campbell College whose pupils played a key role in both WW1 and WW2. It offers the chance to pay respect to those lives lost but also to involve the whole community - encouraging everyone to tell the stories behind not just these 126 men, but all the men from East Belfast who made the ultimate sacrifice in WW1.”
Crucial to The Men Behind the Glass project is the engagement with other schools and the wider community and this January, Living Legacies Michelle Young was employed as the Creative Engagement Manager designing a storytelling and drama initiative which was delivered in Schools throughout East Belfast and the Bangor area.
The Time Traveller workshops toured a number of primary schools and introduced over 500 children to some of the 127 pupils from Campbell College who were lost in WW1. The project used performance and creative techniques to explore how drama can allow young people to interact with the real life and personal stories of those young men, many of whom lived in their own localities over 100 years ago.
The workshop was centred on the life of one of the men, Robert McConnell whose school life at Campbell and war journey was documented through a number of letters he sent home. His story was told through a performance by local actors, Chris Grant who played the role of Robert and Mary McGurk who took on the role of Campbell College teacher Miss Margaret Bole. Robert. Pupils then engaged in a series of creative writing and drama tasks based on letters and postcards sent home from the front before presenting the story of their soldier in a short performance.
The workshops proved to be hugely successful with pupils learning about the stories behind the men behind the glass, their lives at Campbell College and their service in the war. Teachers commented on how engaged their pupils were in the workshop and how the use of drama enhanced their learning experience, giving them an excellent insight into the sacrifice made by the young men from Campbell College.
Mark McKee, Campbell College’s Primary School Liaison Teacher, who came along to one of the workshops said, “The concept was excellent, with such a range of stimuli and learning opportunities. It was clear that the children enjoyed the range of activities greatly – they were engaged and willing throughout. Well done – such a positive experience for all concerned.”
Campbell College website
The Men behind The Glass Website
Vist The Communty Projects Page
Updated News 21st November 2017
Being Human Event at Queen's University Belfast
This year, Queen’s University, Belfast played host to a unique national festival of the humanities which explored the diversity and vitality of the humanities and its relevance to people’s lives. The Being Human Festival, the first and only national festival of the humanities was led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London in partnership with the Arts & Humanities Research Council and the British Academy. As one of five Being Human Hubs across the UK, Queen’s University showcased, through a number of workshops and events, how humanities research can inspire and enrich our own lives and our relationships with others.
On Thursday 21st November at the Brian Friel Theatre, representatives of community groups from across Northern Ireland came together to discuss their involvement in The Medals All Round Research Initiative (MARRI) – a Living Legacies project which explored how drama and theatre methods can challenge the contested histories in Northern Ireland’s commemorations of the centenary of the First World War. The event, entitled The First World War and Community Memory presented excerpts and analysis of the performances and films which were created by community groups in partnership with researchers and facilitators from Queen’s University. The event was hosted by Dr Kurt Taroff, Senior Lecturer in Drama in the School of Arts, English and Languages and Dr Michelle Young, Project Officer at Living Legacies Engagement Centre and one of the drama facilitators from
Each contributor told how the history and legacy of WW1 in their local communities were transformed into art in the form of performances and films. They explained how the MARRI project allowed for the creative engagement with historical memory and discussed how the model of drama and community interaction can contribute towards the greater cultural engagement of disadvantaged and otherwise underserved communities.
The audience were treated to excerpts of two of the films produced through the project. The Tonagh Neighbourhood Initiative’s film, Our Women’s War examined the role of women at home during the war and Sarahjane explained how this work was based on the lives of their grandmothers who took on the jobs vacated by men who went off to fight. Dee Crooks introduced an excerpt of his group’s film, The Rose and the Fusilier which was based on the true story of the Naylor family from Dublin and their involvement in the fighting in France and in Dublin during 1916. Pheme Glass discussed the Live and Learn community group’s performance, Of Bicycles and Fallow Fields which saw members perform a selection of real and created letters based on the themes of family, love and loss. Pheme also read extracts from her recently published first novel, The Blossom or The Bole which is set against the religious difference and community divide of rural Tyrone in the days leading up to and the outbreak of World War One.
In presenting their work at this Being Human event, participants discussed how the MARRI project allowed for an interrogation of the complex narratives that exist within the context of remembering the past in Northern Ireland. By sharing their experience with the assembled audience, they demonstrated how drama and theatre methods can explore the human experience of history and therefore be a powerful way to explore, celebrate and communicate a sense of heritage and community.
Updated News 23rd November 2017
The 5th “First World War Engagement Centre Project” Showcase, Glasgow
On November 23 2017, Information Studies, University of Glasgow organized the 5th “First World War Engagement Centre Project” Showcase in the context of Living Legacies 1914-18.
The showcase was held in the iconic early 20th century building of the Mitchell Library and the audience included project members as well as members of the general public who wanted to:
● Have the opportunity to network with other organisations working on WW1 projects
● Share information about the interesting things that they have found while working on their projects
● Find out how the WW1 Engagement Centres can help their project
● Hear funding and evaluation hints and tips from the experts
● Feel inspired to start thinking about their next project
The room started filling from early in the morning, and the event started with a brief presentation of related projects and the WW1 Engagement Centres, followed by a talk by the host of the event, Prof. Lorna Hughes who gave an illustrated and comprehensive discussion on the uses and benefits of digital tools and methods in the preservation and interpretation of historical memory. Prof. Hughes then addressed the audience and invited them to contemplate on the digital methods they too might have used in their professional and/or amateur historical research, the ways in which digital commemoration has facilitated their undertakings, and the challenges they might have faced while developing digital projects. Finally, Prof. Hughes challenged the audience by posing an intriguing question: “Will digital outputs last over the long term? Do we want them to?”.
In the open discussion which followed there were a number of interesting topics that surfaced, which transcended the boundaries of the digital and the analogue in historical research, such as the question of metadata sufficiency in the physical vis a vis the digital domain, the digital methods employed by local communities in order to keep memory alive, the power of digital and non-digital storytelling, and the issue of co-curation of public history.
Moreover, Prof. Hughes led an insightful discussion on case studies from WW1 projects, which provided the opportunity for tackling crucial issues like the development of sustainability pathways and the importance of social inclusion in digital engagement (how can we hear and record the voices of older people and of the disabled?), which also entails a considerable political context and lies in the epicentre of a very political cultural agenda. The success of the event was largely reflected in the explicit ways in which numerous members of the audience expressed their needs and requirements: teachers of local schools would benefit from access to digital archives, while websites do not always suffice - sometimes narratives made into ebooks should also be available to school children.