Writers and poets of the future took part in the latest event of the Bowes Museum First World War project, “To Serve King And Country”.
The First World War Sharing Event took place at the Barnard Castle School on October 9, showcasing reflections by young people on the First World War. It included students’ reflections from a three-day workshop experience at the Bowes Museum in July, where students from Barnard Castle and Teesdale schools explored how people in Teesdale were affected by the war.
In 1915, Owen Scott, curator of The Bowes Museum, tried to create a Roll of Honour to record Teesdale individuals who served in the First World War. The project was never completed. One hundred years on, Rupert Philbrick, Community Coordinator for the World War One project “To Serve King and Country”, has taken on the task of fulfilling Scott’s dream. The latest part involves engaging young people from Teesdale in the story of their forebearers.
Mr Philbrick said educating and working with young people is part of the project’s brief – to make the First World War a “living history” for them. “We want to enhance their learning experience. This event was a chance to showcase students’ work, as well as the successes of the project so far,” Mr Philbrick added.
Sifting through papers from the First World War in the Bowes Museum archives, youngsters were inspired by the immediacy of the events they were researching. Barnard Castle Year 8 pupil Evie Brenkley said: “It struck me how local it is. We read that billeting was going to happen at the Bowes Museum. You feel as if you are there. Feeling the articles in your hands at the Bowes Museum really strikes you.”
Several First World War themes were explored in the writing, such as the five stages of grief, the arrival of Belgian refugees, the response of a father to his son who has died and the emotional response of stretch-bearers after they have found a dead body.
Several pieces of poetry and creative writing were recited, which moved the enthusiastic crowd gathered at Barnard Castle school. Year 8 pupil Esia Forsyth focused on the suffering that the Belgian refugees had left behind before they came to Britain, a fact which was ignored by the British press. She said: “The nasty bits were not really shown in newspaper articles; only the bits where England helped the Belgian refugees and took them in were shown. The nastier aspects were covered up”, before reciting her poem, entitled Houses Rich And Statues Grand.
Rachel Elphick, Year 11 pupil at Barnard Castle school, produced an emotional and captivating piece of creative writing on the theme of stretch-bearers, in which, on discovering a body, a stretch-bearer discovers that person who has died is his own brother. She said: “Stretcher bearers are not well known. I wanted to find something about the war that was not typical. I have been an avid reader since I was very small. I do a lot of drama, so it was not much of a big deal when I stood up there. When I grow up, I would like to be a writer or be in the police force.”
Amanda Gorman and Cassie Flint, English teachers at Barnard Castle and Teesdale schools respectively, hailed the evening as a success. Mrs Gorman said: “Rupert Philbrick has inspired these young people to produce this work.” Mr Philbrick highlighted the contribution of the young people. He said: “One way of gauging the success of the project is the fact that, since the workshop ended, several students are now volunteering at the museum in their own time to undertake further First World War research.”
The next event for the “To Serve King And Country” project is a volunteer meeting at the Bowes Museum on October 20 between 1:30 – 2:30 pm, which is an opportunity to learn more about how the project has developed over the last 12 months.
By Andy Drozdziak