News & Events
|Updated 14th March 2018
The Medals All Round Research Initiative (MARRI) - a Living Legacies supported community theatre project - involved a diverse range of community groups from throughout Northern Ireland and academics from the School of Creative Arts at Queen's University Belfast; participants came from both Protestant and Catholic communities in urban and rural areas and involved young adults with Special Needs and Prisoners/Ex-Offenders. Each community group was assisted in exploring their heritage in relation to the First World War and supported by an experienced drama facilitator on using theatre skills to tell their own stories. Over a period of ten weeks, groups worked with their drama facilitator to develop their responses to the remembrance of World War 1 into coherent narratives that could form the basis of a drama or film production. All the groups then presented their work at a special performance at the Lyric Theatre Belfast on Feb 29th 2016. The event was a remarkable reflection on the way the First World War resonates in contemporary memory here in Northern Ireland and offered the opportunity to meet and discuss the different ways in which the War lives on, uniquely, in our lives today.
Dramatic Moments: Performing Commemorations/Living Legacies, 1914-18 Dramatic Responses to the Legacies of the First World War Workshop, 10 February 2018
On 10 February, Living Legacies, 1914-18, along with the Performing Commemorations supplemental project ran a full-day workshop in the Brian Friel Theatre at Queen’s University Belfast. Lead by Kurt Taroff (PI on Performing Commemorations and CI on Living Legacies) and Michelle Young (Research Assistant on both projects) the day brought together representatives from community groups from all over the UK in an effort to explore how the groups could involve members of their groups and broader communities in research on the First World War and disseminate that research through performance. The participants were:
- Thomas Hopkins from Central Youth Theatre (Wolverhampton)
- Maureen Ross from the Seaboard Centre (Balintore, Scotland)
- Shomari Walingamina and Bernard Ntivunwa from Carelink West Midlands
- Dr Sheree Mack from Beyond the Western Front, Newcastle, GB
- Nikki Hening from Diseworth Heritage Trust
- Gertie Whitfied from Whitworks Adventures in Theatre, Sheffield
- Patricia Connolly from Tonagh Women's Group, Northern Ireland
Following introductions, the day began with the debut of a 20-minute video recapping the crowning achievement of the Medals All Round Research Initiative (MARRI) project, one of Living Legacies funded projects from the first phase. The video captured highlights from an event at the Lyric Theatre Belfast in February 2016 in which each of six groups that MARRI worked with presented their work in the form of performance or film, with each of the groups in attendance sharing their work with each other and with the public for the first time. In addition, the video captured MARRI researchers return to the groups after the event to gather their feelings about their participation in the event and in the project in general. The video is an outstanding advertisement for the type of work MARRI and Living Legacies achieved in Phase One, and the type of work we’re hoping might come out of the workshop and our interaction with the groups gathered for the day.
We then moved on to a demonstration of how in-depth research on individual stories from the war could be a catalyst for these types of projects. Local drama facilitators Chris Grant and Mary McGurk, each playing multiple roles, portrayed the story of Robert McConnell, a Belfast local who attended Campbell College (the local secondary school that hosted the project out of which this performance originally arose) and Queen’s University Belfast. In February 1912, McConnell received his Commission and was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant to the 10th Battalion King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment in February 1915. He survived the Gallipoli campaign, serving at Sulva Bay until the evacuation. He was then sent to Basra and was attached to the Indian Expeditionary Force for the relief of General Townshend when he was known to have been wounded on the 5th April 1916. He would later be reported as killed in action on 9th April 1916 during the attack on Sanna-i-yat. He is commemorated on the Basra Memorial, Iraq. Chris and Mary performed scenes from Robert’s life, beginning with his life at Campbell (drawing out the similarities with the students’ lives today), continuing through his military experiences, through the arrival of the telegram informing his mother of his death overseas.
(Figures 1 & 2: Chris Grant and Mary McGurk perform scenes from the life of Robert McConnell)
Feeling inspired by the performance, the participants were asked to join themselves, as Michelle lead the group in several ‘image theatre’ exercises, where Michelle would speak a phrase and each participant, when they felt ready, would come onto the stage and pose in a position they felt appropriate. These were ‘War, the maker of heroes’ (Figure 3), followed by ‘War, the taker of lives’ (Figure 4), and finally, ‘In the Trenches’ (Figure 5). These exercises gave participants the opportunity to enter the subjectivity of the soldiers and their families. For the first two exercises, participants were asked to do nothing but take a position and hold it (and for those who came later, to consider the overall picture their addition would create, while for the last ‘In the Trenches’, everyone was asked to speak a single line that captured their characters thoughts at the moment they were capturing. From this small exercise, it was already apparent how a more complex and interactive scene could be built around such moments.
(Figures 3, 4, & 5: Building a scene: ‘War, the maker of heroes’)
(Figures 6, 7, & 8: Building a scene: ‘War, the taker of lives’)
(Figures 9, 10, & 11: Building a scene: ‘In the Trenches’
After lunch, in the day’s final participatory exercise, facilitators separated the participants into two groups, each of which was given a box filled with photographs and objects related to the life of a soldier, after which each group produced a short scene based on their interpretation of the material in the boxes.
(Figure 12: A soldier’s memorabilia box)
In the day’s final activity, we gathered around a table and each participant described the project that they were hoping to take forward toward a potential HLF bid. In our conversations around an impressive range of ideas and projects, the different groups were able to join the organisers in helping each group to work through possibilities and ways the projects might be more likely to succeed with the HLF and ways we might be able to stay in touch and work together in the future.
The day was a great success, as some of the feedback from participants clearly shows:
"I have spent a reflective morning creating ideas for the future. Just need to inform my current husband!"
"Very good sessions and great atmosphere"
 ‘Our Story’, The Men Behind the Glass, https://menbehindtheglass.co.uk/our-story [Accessed 27 February 2018]. ‘The Men Behind the Glass is an HLF-funded project, with Living Legacies team members serving as consultants.
The Medals All Round Research Initiative (MARRI)
A research project funded by Living Legacies 1914-18
On 29 February 2016, The Medals All Round Research Initiative (MARRI) culminated in an event at the Lyric Theatre Belfast with a presentation of the performances, plays and films that have emerged from our work with a variety of community groups from around Northern Ireland. The project began with a group of former QUB students being brought to each of the groups to perform an excerpted version of Dr. Brenda Winter-Palmer’s play The Medal in the Drawer. With the play as inspiration and a starting point, the groups, with the help of a facilitator, began to explore their own ideas and knowledge of the war as we remember it in Northern Ireland.
|Please see a video of the groups presenting their work.|
The Medals All Round Research Initiative (MARRI)
On 29 February 2016, The Medals All Round Research Initiative (MARRI) culminated in an event at the Lyric Theatre Belfast with a presentation of the performances, plays and films that have emerged from our work with a variety of community groups from around Northern Ireland.
The project began with a group of former QUB students being brought to each of the groups to perform an excerpted version of Dr. Brenda
Winter-Palmer’s play The Medal in the Drawer. With the play as inspiration and a starting point, the groups, with the help of a facilitator, began to explore their own ideas and knowledge of the war as we remember it in Northern Ireland.
On the night of the 29th, three of the groups involved presented their work in the form of an on-stage performance, devised and performed by the group itself, two presented films, and finally, the participants from Hydebank Wood College (an educational facility for incarcerated young offenders) wrote a play that was performed by students from the Lyric Theatre’s Drama Studio.
The event was a remarkable opportunity to reflect on the way the First World War resonates in contemporary memory here in Northern Ireland, and allowed these diverse groups to meet and discuss the many different ways in which the War lives on, uniquely, in our lives today, and gave them an opportunity to share their experiences of working on the project.
The groups that MARRI worked with, and who presented their work at the Lyric on the 29th with were as follows:
- Resurgam Trust, Lisburn—6-16-year-olds
- Rathcoole Youth Group—14-18-year-old teenagers—This group made their film on location at the National Museums in Dublin thanks to an additional grant from the Newtownabbey Council.
- Omagh Live and Learn Group—Retired men and women over 50 (sessions held at the Ulster-American Folk Park in Omagh)
- Tonagh Women’s Group, Lisburn—‘women of a certain age’
- Bobosh—teenagers and young adults with disabilities
- Hydebank Wood College—Young offenders
|Please see a video of the groups presenting their work.|
MEDALS ALL ROUND
Wednesday 16th March from 1.00pm to 2.00pm - Room BA00008, Ulster University Belfast Campus, York Street - ADMISSION: Free
USING DRAMA TO EXPLORE FIRST WORLD WAR HISTORY
Inspired by Brenda Winter-Palmer’s play, The Medal in the Drawer, a story of four young Belfast men who head off to fight in the First World War, the Medals All Round Research Initiative (MAARI) is led by a group of academics and practitioners from Queen’s University, Ulster University and the Lyric Theatre in Belfast to engage a diverse range of community groups throughout Northern Ireland in exploring history through drama. Members of the MARRI team, Brenda Winter-Palmer and Kurt Taroff (Queen’s) and Johanne Devlin Trew (Ulster) will be joined for this workshop by actors to present excerpts of the play, followed by a Q & A discussion about how drama may be used by local communities to explore the contested pasts of this island during the current Decade of Commemorations.
The Medal in the Drawer charts the tensions on the streets of Belfast in the years leading up to the outbreak of the European conflict, the Battle of the Somme and how the news of that devastating defeat was received back in Belfast. Their journey’s end is in the horror and pity of the Battle of Passchendale.
SPONSORED BY THE LIVING LEGACIES 1914-18 ENGAGEMENT CENTRE (ULSTER AND QUEEN’S UNIVERSITIES AND NATIONAL MUSEUMS NI) IN COLLABORATION WITH THE LYRIC THEATRE, BELFAST.
VENUE: Room BA00008, Ulster University Belfast Campus, York Street
DATE: Wednesday 16th March