The work continues
This entry is a long overdue one but the last year flew by in a blur of meetings and events. My work with Voices of War & Peace continues. We ran a series of outreach events in the autumn, which were well-attended and led to some interesting discussions, along with some wonderful examples of creative writing, inspired by archive material. We have also continued to publish articles on numerous aspects of the war. We are planning a further three events for the spring and then after that will focus more on hands-on work with community groups and academics.
Last year I went to Dresden to talk, along with Peter Kennard and Cat Picton Phillips, about Caught in the Crossfire. It was a fantastic experience and seeing the exhibition in Coventry’s twin city was especially poignant. I hadn’t imagined when I was curating the exhibition that it would go on to have such resonance and relevance for audiences outside of the UK so it has been extremely rewarding to continue working on it. The exhibition will open soon at Guildford House Gallery in a smaller configuration but one that focuses heavily on the Protest section. This section is particularly in my mind this week after that it was announced that the Chilcot inquiry would not be released until after this year’s General Election and last night I attended a screening of the film War Matters at The Drum in Birmingham (part of the 4WardEver Film Club season), which profiles Brian Haw, the peace campaigner who set up camp outside Parliament and stayed there for 10 years. The following discussion with the director, Chester Yang, and Salma Yaqoob was excellent. There was a real sense that we need to continue dissent, resistance and solidarity, essential as we approach the election, but it’s also evident that over the last ten years or so government suppression of protest has had a marked effect, resulting in a generation that are completely disaffected and unwilling to engage in mainstream politics. I’m not sure how we can tackle that while we are faced with the politicians we have just now but I do know that the situation would be improved immeasurably if people like Salma were our elected representatives and not old white men in bad suits with dodgy financial interests.
Finally, my research on the Birmingham suffragettes also continues. I have given a couple of talks recently specifically on Bertha Ryland’s slashing of a painting in Birmingham Art Gallery and published an article on the subject in History West Midlands special Women in the West Midlands issue. I’m also interested in Hilda Burkitt, one of the first 10 women to be forcibly fed at Winson Green prison, and have begun to find out some interesting information about her life after she as released from Holloway in September 1914. The more research I do on these two women the more questions I have and the most important thing for me is to share this information with people so they are aware of the suffrage story in Birmingham and the Midlands.