In 2013, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC UK) issued a funding call for what it described as ‘Co-ordinating centres for community research and engagement to commemorate the Centenary of the First World War’. The AHRC partnered with the then Heritage Lottery Fund (now NLHF) to create ‘a small number of co-ordinating centres to support community engagement activities to connect academic and public histories of the First World War and its legacy’. The purpose of these coordinating centres was to ‘act as beacons for community outreach, engagement and collaboration at a local/regional and a UK-wide scale between research organisations and researchers and community groups, including young people, who are interested in researching and commemorating the First World War, the broader historical and cultural context of the War and its legacy and impact’.
The Living Legacies 1914-18 WW1 Public Engagement Centre was established in 2014 to fulfil this aim of the AHRC and HLF, and to address wider governmental and academic concerns for ensuring the Centenary of WW1 had maximum impact and reach, particularly in drawing together heritage organisations with networks of academic (HEI – Higher Education Institutions) and community (non-HEI) researchers UK-wide. Northern Ireland in particular—with its complex and ongoing identity politics, formed through contested relationships with the period 1914-18, and resonant still in both Nationalist/Republican and Loyalist/Unionist communities—meant there was (and still is) pronounced urgency and need in Northern Ireland in addressing the impact and place of the war’s centenary, recognised for example by the Community Relations Council (CRC) Decade of Centenaries programme. Based in Northern Ireland at Queen’s University Belfast, and with NI-based researchers with a strong record of public engagement, Living Legacies addressed this challenge directly through a process of dialogues aimed at sharing heritage and embedding this in a series of community-based coproduction projects that were, in essence, commemorative activities but not in themselves overtly commemorations of WW1 in any formal sense.
Funded for six years by the AHRC (2014-19), Living Legacies’ public engagement initiatives focused on community coproduction projects, workshops and events, public exhibitions, publications, toolkits, murals and installations, drama facilitation and performances, digital resources and databases. Living Legacies 1914-18 was established as one of five AHRC-funded WW1 public engagement centres (ECs) but the only one based in Northern Ireland, hence it offered particular scope to explore how, in post-conflict societies, commemorating a past conflict might offer a means through which to bridge community divides. The location of Living Legacies in NI, and its concern for WW1 as ‘conflict heritage’, thus placed the centre advantageously in a wider landscape of research on community based approaches to conflict reconciliation, with implications that go beyond NI.
Indeed, the centre’s academic researchers linked a range of universities across the UK, including not just Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University (UU), but in Great Britain with the University of Glasgow (UoG), Swansea University (SU), Goldsmiths University of London (GUoL), and Newcastle University (NU). While led by academic geographers and geo-humanities specialists at QUB, Living Legacies also spanned a range of humanities and arts disciplines concerned with community and heritage, including History (UU, GUoL, US), Drama (QUB), Museums and Library Studies (UU, UoG) and Archaeology (QUB). These university partners worked closely too across the heritage sector, through partnering with organisations including the National Library of Wales (NLW), National Museums Northern Ireland (NMNI), the Imperial War Musuem (IWM), the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), the Council for British Archaeology (CBA), the Public Record Office Northern Ireland (PRONI), and Libraries NI, all key stakeholders during the Centenary.
During the Centenary of WW1, Living Legacies researchers sought to develop a collaborative model of community and public engagement, that involved forging meaningful and transformative connections between universities, museums, libraries and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). This approach enabled deeper and richer community engagements with the past, opening up more inclusive approaches to past conflict, and in the process contributing to and shaping major WW1 Centenary partnerships and initiatives in the UK and beyond. The centre’s core public engagement activities discursively fed from and into the AHRC’s established Connected Communities and Care for The Future programme themes. Specifically, the principles set out in Facer and Enright’s (2016) Creating Living Knowledgereport, which promoted a model of coproduction as the basis of forming close partnerships between academic and community researchers, were embedded in Living Legacies’ community and public engagement initiatives across the UK.
The emphasis of Living Legacies during the Centenary was therefore on building capacity, offering specialist training and support, sharing research ideas and methods, and developing and delivering impactful local community-based research linked into universities, government bodies, NGOs and wider community groups and organisations. What emerged from this process was an iterative and recursive process of public engagement with the First World War, embedding more inclusive heritage principles and practices in UK stakeholder policies and practices, as well as in the community-based Centenary projects themselves.
How to Navigate this Website
As you will see, this website features two scrollable timelines: one featuring important local and global events during the period 1914-1918, and another for selected Living Legacies events from 2014- 2018.
Each Living Legacies 2014-18 timeline entry is separated into Highlights, Projects, and Events. Be sure to click on all these tabs to ensure you don’t miss out on any content!
Collaborative partnerships and Living Legacies-funded projects are marked by a ⭐️ icon. These were specifically important participations that were critical to the success of meeting Living Legacies intentions and themes.
Sincere thanks go to the numerous community groups and volunteers that engaged so constructively in all our co-production projects, across the UK. Their participation, positive inputs, discussions, attendance at events, and feedback have been invaluable during the Centenary commemorations and truly helped make Living Legacies the success that it was.
None of this work would have been possible without the generous financial support
of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) which enabled the five WW1 engagement centres across the UK, and the terrific bodies of work which emanated from them.
Gratitude must also be expressed to the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NHLF) for implementing their First World War: Then & Now community grants scheme which supported so many wonderful community research projects during the Centenary.
Thanks go to our various stakeholders and collaborative partners over the years, from those in the museum and heritage sector, libraries, local government, the NI Community Relations Council, and higher education institutions, amongst others.
We are grateful for the encouragement and assistance of the other engagement centres over the years: Voices of War & Peace (University of Birmingham),
Gateways to the First World War (University of Kent), Everyday Lives in War (University of Hertfordshire) and the Centre for Hidden Histories (University of Nottingham).
We would particularly like to note the support, work and efforts of all the many members of the Living Legacies team over the past six years: the Centre’s researchers, Co-Investigators, Project Manager, Project Officers, and Outreach staff. Very special thanks go to the Centre for Data Digitisation and Analysis (CDDA) at Queen’s University Belfast who supported Living Legacies throughout.