Today was the first reading of our final pieces for the WW1 Internship Project!
We had a first reading of our pieces as well as discussing the locations/items that inspired our work and the routes of our trails. I thought that my trail could be sign posted by having each section of the walk being marked with each year of the WW1 (a timeline of the events of the war if you will). Each poem is also named in reference to the inspiration behind the choice of location. As well as this, it was discussed that today I could bring a performance element to my trail by leading people around the trail in character (possibly a WW1 Nurse) whilst either reading my poems aloud or talking about the reasoning behind my choice of trail locations. After this my poems will be in a booklet type document that visitors at the museum are able to read them whilst walking around the trail can read as they walk around. There is also a school visiting on the launch day and so I hope I may be able to lead them around my trail in character if this could be a possibility.
Here is one of the drafts for the “1914” section of my trail that I presented today (please click to enlarge):
I am very excited to also begin to plan my drama workshop that I will have with a local school with a focus on WW1. This is going to be a first for me, I hope it will raise my confidence in leadership as well as teaching my new found knowledge to the students from the school through drama activities.
Having visited the museum again today I have created a trail around the grounds of the museum itself with each section representing a piece of the timeline of WW1.
The trial is as follows:
- The starting place of the trail is the entrance doors to the museum (Symbolic of a soldier going off to war)
- Then the trail then moves along to the small woodland, leading to the grass hill. The trail will go behind the hill and up over it (Symbolic of the soldiers running out of the trenches)
- Then the trail goes from here to the Woodland Walk (Symbolic of going across the battlefield) following the long and winding path (Symbolic of the soldiers walking to war)
- This leads to the small play park (showing what the soldiers fought for, the safety and freedom of future generations) This also makes the walk more family friendly.
- The final destination of my trail are the gardens at the front of the museum. This is a beautiful and calming part of the ground with which to end my trail. (This ending location symbolises the peace after the war)
Today has really opened my eyes as to the sheer amount of land that is as much a part of Bowes Museum as the building itself. As I was walking around I felt pulled to certain areas as I felt that they could be related to WW1. I also liked the idea of making the event accessible to people of all ages, this is why the small play park area seemed like such a good additional to the trail, I was unaware of this park being in existence which means that the walk has the potential to show people areas of Bowes Museum’s grounds they were not even aware of.
To further my exploration of what I could produce as an act of remembrance for WW1 I thought I’d look a little deeper into how they are already remembered. The most obvious memorials that people will think of include the Cenotaph in London but I wanted to explore possibly lesser known memorial sites.
Located locally in Seaham, this statue that has been affectionately named “Tommy”. Designed by Ray Lonsdale, he intended for the statue to represent the Post-Traumatic Distress that many soldiers faced. Lonsdale also created the structure to represent the minute after Armistice was declared 1918. Fittingly the piece is named 1101 for this reason. The structure stands at 9ft 5ins and weighs 1.2 tonnes. Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk
This stunning sculpture made of ice shows 5000 small ice structures that were placed on a set of steps in Birmingham to represent the lives tragically lost in WW1. The structures were allowed to melt in the rain but many people decorated them with items such as flowers. This is a truly creative and poignant display that I’d never heard about and to put it lightly the creativity shown here is truly inspiring.
The use of song during WW1 has really stuck in my mind since my visit to Bowes Museum and I have decided to further this research into how during a time of such peril song was used to communicate inner emotions and worries as well as how the use of song was used to boost morale. One of the most surprising things about the music of the war is the upbeat nature of it, the songs such as “Its a long way to Tipperary” and “For me and my gal” have such a happy and hopeful tone I feel that they fully express the need to keep morale high during times of such insecurity when words alone may not have been enough. I feel as though the medium of song was used to convey the emotions of the soldiers leaving their loved ones but also as a battle cry before they set off on an uncertain future when leaving to fight for their country. Having done some internet research into songs of the period I have found an album named “Great Songs From The Great War”, an album of songs from WW1. Having listened to songs from this album several have stood out to me and could act as possible inspiration for what I produce from this internship.
It’s a long way to Tipperary – What is possibly the most shocking thing about this song for me is not only its upbeat and happy sound but the fact that I remember the tune of this song from my childhood and never knew the origins of it. This possibly shows how even today pieces of the WW1 still influence our lives, even in the subtlest of ways.
For Me and My Gal – For me this was a song that showed the unexpected romance that could be found in the war period, how truly the one thing that kept the soldiers going was their plans for the future with their families. Truly shows how every single solider who fought in WW1 was an individual, a human being with hopes and dreams for the future.
Will You Remember? – I feel like this one of the few songs that addresses the experience of the loved ones that the soldiers left behind. Their fears that time and space would separate them for too long. This could be something to further investigate.
How Can I leave Thee? – This was a song that I came across when visiting the Bowes Museum when looking in the archives. What struck me was the sorrow in this song, a universal sorrow that every soldier must have felt having to leave their families to face an uncertain future.
Auld Lang Syne – As detailed on my last blog post I read a story in a newspaper from 1916 of a soldier who shot himself in the head on a train, leaving a letter for his wife that said amongst other things “Auld Lang Syne. God Bless.”. Since then this song has been in my head and I feel that I now have a new relation this song. It is no longer a song that represents the beginning of a new year but in fact is a phrase that was heavily used during the war as soldiers feared that they would be forgotten.
Going to the Bowes felt like putting on an old hat, I’ve visited several times as a child including a time where an actress in full costume pretended to be a ghost of a Victorian woman haunting the grounds. I remember she sung in French. It was the first piece of performance I really appreciated as a child and it did inspire me to pursue the performing arts as I am doing so right at this time.
Anyway, the main aim of yesterday was to soak up as much history as possible from WW1 using the resources from the Bowes Museum Library and archives. These sources varied in form, from letters, postcards and even a diary from a soldier who was on the front line. The first letter I read happened to be the original letter requesting that the Roll of Honour to be made in order to keep track of all serving in WW1 in the Teeside counties including Barnard Castle and Durham. Interestingly the names for all of the nurses on the front line were all requested- this was something I did not expect. I thought that the women of the war effort were mostly overlooked during WW1 but this was a pleasantly surprising revelation.
I went on to read a copy of a Roll of Honours that listed a civilian as well as the soldiers and staff on the western front. I was slightly confused at this but found it to be an astonishing find as the information documented about Mr Watkins in quite remarkable- he was the first Englishman under the age of 50 to escape from Germany or Austria since the outbreak of the war.
I then went on to read newspapers from 1916- quite charmingly filled with adverts for Beechams and Swamp Root as the cure for seemingly any ailment! However, two stories from this paper have stuck with me in the most emotionally charged way. The first was about a solider (whom had fought in wars previous to WW1) who hadn’t been called to fight in WW1 again and was in financial distress. As a consequence of this distress he shot himself on a train, leaving his wife a note telling her to keep his ring and she had been more than a wife to him as well and finishing saying “Auld Lang Syne. God Bless”. This was a seriously harrowing story because of the matter of fact writing style of the piece and the harrowing farewell note he left for his wife. It resonated with me deeply.
Moving onto the other story that really stuck with me it involved one major thing. Socks. It was a statement from a soldier from the front line asking the public to send them socks as they had plenty of mittens and mufflers but yearned for the feeling of dry socks. This was the most inconceivable thing to me because it was such a simple ask during a time of such sorrow- but untimely even more touching because it shows that soldiers were human beings the same as with such humble wants and asks but were willing to put some much on the line for their country.
Another thing that was so shocking to me was how music and song were so essential during WW1. The amount of little ditties and rhymes that were sung to express emotions and keep things upbeat during the war was amazingly inspiring to me as I never realised that people relied on music during the war to express their emotions so vividly (as shown in the photographs within this post). As I was feeling inspiring I wrote a small ditty myself that can be seen below from the perspective of a child saying goodbye as their father goes away to war (please click on image to enlarge my poem):
(Sorry for the depressing poetry but I felt very emotional at the time of this writing!)
Having walked around the grounds of Bowes itself (they are visually stunning) I feel that I would like to use them in some form within whatever I produce as part of this internship. I’m not sure how yet but I’m determined to do it! I’m not sure where my research will lead me as it is ongoing but I’m determined to make something great as a tribute and memorial to the many great men, women and animals who sacrificed their lives so that we could live.