Voices of War & Peace

The year so far has been an incredibly busy one. Late last year we heard that a bid to the Arts & Humanities Research Council for the University of Birmingham to become a First World War Engagement Centre had been successful. I had been named in the bid, submitted by Professor Ian Grosvenor, as the Coordinator, a role that I took up in January. The purpose of the Centres (there are 5 in total across the UK) is to support a wide range of community engagement activities, connecting academic and public histories of the First World War as part of the commemoration of the War’s centenary. Our centre, Voice of War and Peace: the Great War and its Legacy, will lead on the following themes: Belief & the Great War, Cities, Childhood, Commemoration and Gender & the Home Front. We are working with Co-Investigators from a number of institutions across the Midlands and further afield in Glasgow, Manchester and Cardiff, and we also have an ever-expanding Research Network made up of academics, curators and community engagement specialists.

voices-l1We publicly launched the Centre in March at the Library of Birmingham, where I am based, to an audience of over 200 delegates representing a wide variety of community, cultural and academic organisations from across the Midlands and further afield. The programme featured readings of archive material by local schoolchildren, speeches from city councillors, poetry performances from Stoke-based community group DJ School, who have received support from the Heritage Lottery Fund for their project ‘Remembrance Poets’, and a debate with members of the Centre on why we are commemorating the First World War. The event also saw the unveiling of the Centre’s website, www.voicesofwarandpeace.org, which will be the main point of contact for community groups interested in working with the Centre.

Since March I have been meeting with a wide variety of people interested in the commemoration of the War, that have either already secured funding through the HLF Then and Now programme, or that are interested in submitting a bid. I am also organising workshops and study days based around our themes and on subjects that have been previously neglected with the aim of encouraging research projects.

In addition to this I have continued to work on the Fight for the Right project, giving talks and organising screenings (as yet unconfirmed but watch this space!). I also recently gave a talk to the Dudley Labour Party Women’s Group on ‘Red’ Emma Sproson, Wolverhampton’s first female city councillor and former suffragette, based on research I carried out while working at Wolverhampton Archives. I will blog about Emma soon.

‘Red’ Emma Sproson

Recently it was confirmed that the Caught in the Crossfire exhibition will be displayed in Dresden over the summer. I have been invited to give a talk there in September so I’m extremely excited about seeing it in a different venue and proud that the exhibition will reach more people.

CPHlogoAnd last week a group of colleagues and I established the People’s Heritage Co-operative. The aims of this group are:

  • To promote and raise awareness of peoples heritage
  • To contribute to community cohesion and increase understanding of our diverse heritage
  • To support our members to more effectively work with people to share our culture and heritage
  • To develop a network of supportive members, developing their practice by promoting collaborative work, increasing participation in exploring and interpreting Birmingham’s heritage through an open membership policy

If you would to find out more and join us then do get in contact at peoplesheritagecoop@googlegroups.com