News & Events

Women and Leisure during the First World War – ‘An Essential Part of National Work’

Home Front storytelling in hard to reach places

In January 2019 the Women and Leisure during the First World War exhibition was taken down from its final venue at Newcastle Central Library. It has been exhibited continuously in venues across Tyne and Wear and Northern Ireland since October 2017 and I’ve accompanied it on almost all of its travels. 

There is lots to say about this exhibition in general but a key point is that it brims with research findings that were produced by community researchers from the North East... and it was then exhibited in those same communities. We were really pleased that our exhibition visited some "big" venues (Ulster Museum in Belfast, St Mary's Heritage Centre in Gateshead), but museums are particular destinations: we arrive there on detours from everyday life with free time to spend and with our concerns on the back burner. 

We were equally pleased that the exhibition was seen in some very different spaces, although they were not exactly "destinations" our aim here was to exhibit at those fleetingly visited waypoints on the daily routes that people follow in order to hold their lives together. Our rationale was that if an exhibition is to have the best possibility of being encountered by the community, it needs to go on that route somewhere.  



 Updated News 3rd August – 3rd September
‘Connecting Communities – Critical Reflections on WW1 Commemoration’

Keith Lilley - Living Legacies Engagement Centre at the Ulster Museum (Belfast, Northern Ireland)


On Friday 3rd August 2018, the Living Legacies Engagement Centre launched a new exhibition in the Belfast Room of the Ulster Museum (Belfast, Northern Ireland) in association with the National Museums of Northern Ireland (NMNI). The exhibit 'Connecting Communities - Critical Reflections on WW1 Commemoration' runs from the 3rd August to the 3rd September 2018 and consists of panels and information boards focusing on the research outputs of three Living Legacies-funded projects: Women & Leisure during the First World War (Newcastle University/Women's Institute), Diverse Perspectives on a Global Conflict: Migrant Voices & Living Legacies of World War One (Ulster University/North West Migrants Forum) and Refocusing Perspectives: Then & Now Photography of the First World War (Exeter University). Professor Keith Lilley, Director of the Living Legacies Centre and Hannah Crowdy, Head of Curatorial at National Museums of Northern Ireland welcomed and introduced the event, after which Dr Philip McDermott (PI, Diverse Perspectives), Dr Paul Wright (RA, Women & Leisure) and Dr James Wallis (RA, Refocusing Perspectives) provided short lectures presenting each of the projects, offering a synthesis of the impacts and outputs their Living Legacies-funded projects have had. The event was well-attended with representatives from the offices of the Heritage Lottery Fund in London, senior academics from Queen's University and Ulster University, Chief Executives and Programme Directors from Libraries NI, NI Community Relations Council, the Department for Communities (NI), the Northern Ireland Public Records Office and members of local history organisations and the general public. Feedback recorded from the day included: 'Seeing varying narratives and collaborative efforts is refreshing...enriching to public discourse!', 'the detail of the projects was fascinating', 'great to see such content being held at national museum level at the Ulster Museum', and 'there is a more diverse community in Northern Ireland than I was aware of...'.

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                      Diverse Perspectives                                                     Women & Leisure

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                                                                   Dr Philip McDermott

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                                                                      Dr Paul Wright

 2018-08-03 # Connecting Communities pic 5

                                                                    Dr James Wallis

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                         HLF’s Araba Webber                                           Dr Philip McDonald & Dr James Wallis


Updated News 6th February 2018
DORA and the Aliens

cap-a-pie‌A new Living Legacies supported project has recently commenced in the North East, having secured funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

DORA and the Aliens is the latest in a series of critical projects that aim to shed light on aspects of home front life which were morally questionable at best, and brutally repressive at worst. “DORA” stands for the “Defence of the Realm Act” – it was passed less than a week after the outbreak of war and it gave British authorities sweeping powers to register, track, and prohibit the movements of anyone foreign-born who resided in Britain at that time. These people, referred to as “Aliens”, bore a heavy weight of suspicion and hostility on the ill-founded assumption that they sympathised with Germany.

What was it like to be an alien living in the long shadow of DORA? Project lead, Cap-a-Pie, will work closely with a local researcher and children’s author to produce an interactive drama workshop designed for primary school children. Creating and acting out roles in a dramatic performance is an ideal way for children to learn about these challenging questions: instead of being told what happened they are placed into and act their way through recreations of the scenarios and events we’re interested in. When children create roles for themselves in a dramatic recreation they effectively experience the material “from the inside”, rather than being told about them or reading about them “from the outside”.

We think this will result in a more thorough and meaningful exploration of the issues – more so that would usually be expected of this age group.

Please go to Cap-a-pie website for more information

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Updated 8th June 2017



Updated 22nd September 2017
Women and leisure

22-09-2016 # Woman and leisure V122-09-2016 # Woman and leisure V2

Please click on images above to view full flyer 



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Updated 18th May 2016

Our project has developed real momentum since January, a period which has seen us engage with over sixty community participants through a staged series of events (nine to date), split between Training Events, Archive Events and Creative Events. During this time, our participants have accrued confidence and skills in both using archives, and developing creative ways of expressing their archival discoveries.

Training Events

During our Training Events we collaborated with the Woodhorn Museum and Northumberland Archives (Ashington) to design a full day of activities. The activities were “concentric” insofar that we started each day in the broadest possible terms by discussing what an archive actually is, how holdings arrive there and how they are organised and cared for. From these very broad beginnings we progressed through more focussed activities until, by the end of the day, we were concentrating closely on the experience of the individual researcher. At this stage we were tutoring participants in, for example, how to take effective notes, how to develop effective search terms, and how to create personal research plans that would enable them to follow their particular interests (including oral histories).  

Our Training Events proved so popular that we ran our activities day at the Woodhorn Museum a total of three times, and this prepared our participants for a full month of Archive Events. During the Archive Events (which fell largely in April 2016), our participants had the opportunity to practice their newly minted skills by visiting four different archive collections in the region. The project Research Associate (Paul Wright) stationed himself in a different archive every week to support participants as they made inroads into their areas of interest. Some of their findings are extraordinary: the rarely researched diaries of Ruth Dodds, a prominent Gateshead politician, author, playwright, historian and munitions worker, describe the increasing urgency with which she sought out leisure time in Northumberland’s rural landscapes as an increasingly desperate tonic to the pressures of war. This included, at one stage, an agonising wait for news of family members who (successfully) crossed the Atlantic during the week that Lusitania was sunk. We have also uncovered fascinating changes to how choirs and choral societies were run during the war, and how women gave over their leisure time to causes that combined politics and education – women were especially significant in the early years of the Workers Educational Association in the North-East.

These significant findings are very much owned by our participants (we are privileged to share in them), and we want to make sure that this ownership continues when it comes to expressing and publicising them. This is the idea that underpins our Creative Events. During this stage of the project (which commenced recently and runs through early to mid-summer 2016) we are providing carefully designed platforms from which our participants can create lively, imaginative expressions which do full justice to the scope of their findings. The first such platform, Digital Storytelling, introduces our participants to digital image and audio recording/editing. Equipped with these new abilities, they are producing illustrated spoken word accounts of their work on our project. The second of these, Performed Archives, invites participants to work with a local theatre group to devise, script, and perform short pieces of drama to meaningfully express something they have discovered in the archives – be that an event, a particular person, or a wider scenario.


Project researchers collaborating with participants to produce a travelling exhibition on Women and Leisure during the First World War – Dates to be confirmed.

Further events in the pipeline

HLF application workshops and a grand launch event (late summer) – Dates to be confirmed.

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