September 2014

Northern Ireland 2016 Research Network

Keith Lilley attended the first workshop of the “Northern Ireland 2016 Research Network”, organised by Dr Marie Coleman and Dr Dominic Bryan, and held on Friday September 28 at the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen’s. The workshop is one of three funded by the AHRC and focused on “The nature and purpose of commemoration”. The day included an excellent and very stimulating lecture by Dr Guy Beiner of Ben Gurion University. Also present were representatives from the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, and Belfast City Council. Academic contributors included Living Legacies network members such as Fran Brearton, Dominic Bryan and Marie Coleman. The second of the workshops – at a date to be decided – will be on comparative commemoration in an Irish and international context. Something to look forward to.

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The Last Post: The Sound of the Centenary

Our Principal Investigator, Dr. Keith Lilley, attended 'The Last Post' Information event. It was organised by SuperAct (, a non-profit, creative group. the evening included an introduction to the Last Post project.

The project combines the use of music and historical research to provide a unique method of collectively remembering the war sacrifice.

Dr. Lilley spoke about Living Legacies and our role in supporting community projects which investigate the contemporary legacy of WW1.

Cathie McKimm and Dr. Lilley gave some advice on sources of funding for WW1 projects, along with some broader research advice.

Any queries regarding these topics can be addressed to the Living Legacies team, via social media or the website.

Please click the poster for further details

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Exploring our First World War Heritage

2014/09/23 - The Last Post (KLilley)Living Legacies hosted an open evening at the Brian Friel Theatre at Queen's on the topic of 'Exploring Our First World War Heritage'. The event was well-attended, attracting a wide range of participants, including academic researchers and community researchers. The evening showcased two current Queen's postgraduate research projects (by Heather Montgomery and Rebecca Milligan) looking at the physical legacies of the war surviving in Ireland's landscapes, both projects using geospatial technologies as a way of visualising these links between past and present. Talks were given also by Stella Byrne from the Northern Ireland HLF regional office about HLF funding opportunities and recently funded projects, while Emma McBride from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) introduced us to the NIEA Defence Heritage Project (DHP), with an invitation for communities to get involved with searching out the remains of First World War sites in the landscape. The evening also included a short presentation by Keith Lilley about the role that the Living Legacies centre is playing in connecting academic and community researchers interested in First World War heritage.

Please click the poster for further details

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First World War Conservation Open Day, Newry

First World War Conservation Day: Newry and Mourne Museum

On Saturday 13th September, some of the Living Legacies team were at Bagenal's Castle, in Newry, site of the Newry and Mourne Museum. The event was kindly organised by Dr. Robert Whan, a Collections specialist based at the museum. Prior to the Conservation Day, a call for objects had gone out across several platforms. The call was for items and documents connected to the First World War and the period from 1912-1922. These items included; postcards sent home from the battlefield, medals, professional photographs of the men setting off for war and more unusual objects such as rifle sights. Such objects are often passed from generation to generation and kept at home. By bringing them along to events such as this, the legacy and heritage of the war can be explored in a group setting.

WW1 Conservation Day 13.9.2014 (16)In order to deliver the necessary expertise, a full team was present at Newry Museum. Along with Dr. Whan and leading conservator, Sean Madden, National Museums Northern Ireland and Queen's University Belfast staff attended to provide historical and conservation advice to members of the public. Fiona Byrne, the Living Legacies History Engagement Officer, now a central figure at our roadshows and public events, provided detailed and professional guidance on the successful preservation of historical artefacts.

The digitisation unit, staffed by CDDA (Centre for Data Digitisation and Analysis) was also available at Baganel's Castle so that items such as embroidered silk postcards (produced by soldiers and sent home to loved ones) could be digitally captured and thus preserved indefinitely. The call for objects had been heeded and we received a tremendous number of inquiries from individuals who wished to digitise and carefully conserve their memorabilia. The digitisation unit worked hard throughout the day to ensure that all items were successfully sampled. Digital copies (if desired) will be sent out to the items' owners in due course. These copies can be shared with family and friends or used for specific historical projects.

Throughout the day, there were costumed tours of the museum, which included a tour of the museum's 'Local impacts of the First World War' display. These were a great success. The event closed with an expert session provided by Sean Madden, who outlined the methods of conserving letters, medals, photographs and other artefacts. We were delighted to participate in this event and are grateful to the extensive work which Newry and Mourne Museum have done in engaging the public in this Decade of Centenaries. 

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Air Waves Portrush : BBC World War One at Home

2014-09-07 # Air Waves Portrush - 01On Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th September, the Living Legacies team set off for Portrush. We had been invited to participate in one of the BBC's flagship 'World War One At Home' roadshows. The BBC held eight of these large-scale, flagship events across the UK, along with seventeen others. The flagship events were held in Wolverhampton, Woolwich, Sunderland, Dundee, Bristol, Rhyl, Nottingham and Portrush. The events were created so that, during this period of commemoration, members of the public could reflect upon the impacts and outcomes of WW1.

The site at Portrush housed a range of tents, groups and interactive stands. The Living Legacies team shared a tent with the Somme Association and the Royal British Legion. Castleton Lanterns were in the adjacent tent. We had brought along the mobile digitisation unit, provided by one of our partner organisations, CDDA (Centre for Data Digitisation and Analysis:, so that members of the public could have their artefacts digitised if they wished. The scanners which CDDA own can take high-quality, high-resolution images of 2D items such as letters, photographs, maps and books. By doing this, images of the item can be shared across the internet with friends, family and other researchers. They can also be preserved indefinitely via an online archive or website.

2014-09-07 # Air Waves Portrush - 03In addition, Dr. Keith Lilley, Principal Investigator for the project and Reader in Historical Geography, brought alone some trench maps to show how the Western front was not fixed, but rather shifted as the war progressed. One of the ways which the Centre hopes to encourage public engagement with WW1 legacy is to challenge popularly held conceptions and to reveal the complex nature of life on the Western front, as well as at home. The maps generated plenty of discussions as members of the public viewed the trench structures of well-known battles, such as the Somme, Guillemont, etc.

Our museums expert, Fiona Byrne, brought along some specialist materials which are used to properly conserve historical items such as letters, medals and photographs. Part of Fiona's role as Historical Engagement Officer is not only to discuss the historical context and rarity of the items which the public bring along, but also to give advice on their conservation. Many of our visitors mentioned that they had objects at home which they hoped to pass onto relatives and Fiona was able to explain how to ensure the items did not degrade over time.

2014-09-07 # Air Waves Portrush - 02The Briefing Room was the focal point of the event, with a large tent being set up for experts to give talks and hold Q & A sessions with the public. On Sunday, Centre member Professor Richard Grayson delivered several expert lectures to interested members of the public.

The weekend was well-attended, with around 7,000 people being comfortably accommodated across the site. Several of the tents were aimed at younger people, with the Parading Square challenging youngsters to complete a mini assault course, under the watch of a drill Sergeant. In addition to this, there was a Morse Code tent with a Morse decoder, field telephones and communications equipment from the War. Imperial War Museums had partnered with the BBC and the AHRC (Art and Humanities Research Council) to host the events and IWM staff had a well-attended stand with an objects expert of their own.

We were delighted to attend the roadshow and extremely impressed by the level of public interest, across a range of ages, in the heritage which WW1 has left. 

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Performing Arts activities report August – December

2014-12-31 # Performing Arts activities report August – December # 001SinceThe Medal in the Drawerwas successfully staged at the Brian Friel Centre, Queen's University Belfast, the play's cast and Creative Team have been busy preparing and delivering a community outreach programme which uses the original script as stimulus material for groups of young people to stage their own theatrical responses to the centenary of the First World War

Photo 1 :- Jumping Boys - Rehearsing Medal in the Drawer

In September 2014, seven third-year students of Drama Studies at Queen's University, all leading players in the original production, trained with a professional drama-workshop facilitator. The object of the exercise was to equip these students with the skills which would enable them to go into schools and community groups to help lead young people in the devising of their own drama productions.

Third-year Drama Studies student Stella Green, who played Lady Constance Fairfax Ross inThe Medal in the Drawer,comments on her experience of participating in the play and its accompanying out-reach activities to schools:

From the start I understood that ‘Medal in the Drawer’ was going to be more than an assessed piece of work for my university degree. The family connection which the author, Brenda Winter-Palmer, has with the piece, coupled with the cultural connection of its cast to the Belfast locality in which it is set, made sure we approached the text with sensitivity and emotion. The play and the cast have not only made me explore a point in history which I have always found interesting but it has also given me a connection to characters which I have never felt before … they’ve become people who I know well. And this is the reason why I find using the characters from ‘Medal in the Drawer’ as a focus for drama work with young people such a natural development. We all want to share these individuals that we have come to know with as many people as possible. It has been and I hope it will continue to be an eye-opening experience which I am lucky enough to share with many good friends that I have made along the way.

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Photo 2 : The Frontliners with Jonathan Evershed

Stella with fellow ‘Frontliners’, David Paulin, Brian Diamond, Lloyd Whiteside and Mathew Jeffrey. Also pictured is Jonathon Evershed, Creative Director of the Co-operation-Ireland Project ‘Entwined Histories’. This group of students, along with Rebekah Wallace and Pamela Bell, have been so inspired by the process that they have formed their own theatre-in-education company called ‘Frontline’.

Since the beginning of October the Frontliners have performed scenes from The Medal in the Drawer, engaged in question and answer sessions in role, conducted workshops, assisted in the devising of performances in schools, community venues, outdoor museums, museum galleries and even in a cinema as a prelude to the screening of the famous silent film of the Battle of the Somme.

Photo 3 : First person interpretation at the First World War Poster Exhibitions – National Museum Northern Ireland
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Entwined Histories : The Frontliners partner with Co-operation Ireland October/November 2014

This was a collaborative project with the cross-border agency ‘Co-operation Ireland’. It explored through creative and expressive means the role politicians played in encouraging young men to go to war in 1914. The Frontliners used a range of theatre/drama techniques as well as scenes fromThe Medal in the Drawerto enable groups involved to create their own mini-dramas on the First World War. This project culminated in a public performance involving eighty pupils and their student mentors on 6th November at the Ulster Museum, Belfast.

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Photo 4 : Matthy Jeffrey at the First World War Poster Exhibitions – National Museum Northern Ireland

Peter Sheridan OBE, Chief Executive, Co-operation Ireland said

"Co-operation Ireland highly values partnership working and we are delighted to have had the opportunity to extend our relationship with Queen's University in the past months. Liaising with Brenda Winter-Palmer through the Living Legacies programme, we have had the pleasure of training and working with five 3rd year Drama students. Working as part of our facilitation team, their contribution as mentors has very much enhanced the experience of the 80 teenagers involved. I've been impressed by their energy, enthusiasm and work ethic, encouraging and motivating the young people to express themselves and their ideas. Thank you to Brenda, Matty, David, Stella, Brian and Lloyd for all your efforts."

Photo 5 : David Paulin conducts a workshop with Co-operation Ireland
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‌Greg Toner, Head of History at Participating School Assumption Grammar School, Ballynahinch commented

"I cannot speak highly enough of the Drama students from Queen's University. In addition to their obvious talent as actors it was their cheerful demeanours and clear sense of purpose which quickly earned them the respect and admiration of pupils and teachers alike."

Project facilitator Jonathan Evershed described the benefit obtained by students:

Medal in the Drawer' captures so well the conflicted emotions and divided loyalties in Ireland during the First World War in a way that only drama can. The play's subtext is a profoundly personal politics of memory, and I am grateful to Brenda Winter- Palmer for allowing us to make use of her wonderful script over the course of the project. In their dual role as actors and facilitators, the play was brought to life and re-worked with great energy by Stella, Lloyd, David, Matty and Brian to allow the project participants to engage creatively and critically with this period and its legacy.

Photo 6 : The Frontliners perform at final presentation of Co-operation Ireland Project

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The Frontliners perform at the Ulster Museum

‘Westies’ at War Project.

This project is currently working with two schools on the Falls Road to uncover, dramatize and present stories from the Home Front in Nationalist West Belfast, particularly the role of women munitions workers in Mackies Foundry.

In addition to this, an event in the QFTs School Outreach Programme was enjoyed by school pupils.

Photo 7 : Students from belfast Hospital School with Frontliners

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The Frontliners have also been invited to perform scenes from Medal in the Drawer at the launch of a new exhibition on the history of The 6th Connaught Rangers, a British Amry regiment largely populated by nationalist men from the Falls Road in Belfast. Belfast's City Hall on the 19thNovember 2014.

Connaught Rangers

Photo 8 : Frontliners perform at Belfast City Hall

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Siobhan Deane from 6th Connaught Rangers Research Project sent some comments regarding the Frontline theatre company:

I just wanted to say a big thanks to you and the 4 actors (Brian, Lloyd, David and Matty) from 'Medal in the Drawer' in putting on the final scene at our exhibition launch at Belfast City Hall on 19th November last. This was a big day for us. It was the first time we think, that those men from nationalist areas of Belfast who fought in WW1 would be highlighted in City Hall and we wanted this to be as professional and informative as possible. Your play and the acting certainly achieved that. Whilst we knew that your play and the acting was first class, those attending the launch, including the Lord Mayor and Lord Lieutenant of Belfast, were unaware what was about to unfold and I think for them, it was engaging, original and even emotional. I think some in the audience expected a lecture but your play managed to convey what we intended to say in an original way. Instead of a slide show we were met by four young men (like the original soldiers themselves) in army uniform, with Belfast accents, who voiced the fears and feelings that the politics of WW1 encapsulated and who conveyed both the message we had hoped to convey whilst at the same time, embodying the young soldiers themselves. Attendees at our event could see these young men instead of imagining them. It almost seemed that the past was speaking to the future and that caught a lot of people. I found it very moving and I know others did too.

We look forward to working with you again.

Siobhan and the 6th Connaught Rangers Committee

Photo 9 : Brenda Winter-Palmer at Belfast City Hal
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The Road to War lecture series

2015/01/20 # NMNI # September 2014 # 001A joint lecture series exploring the impact and legacy of the First World War was hosted at the Ulster Museum and PRONI and facilitated by Living Legacies. The lectures took place in August to October exploring various elements that led to war.

The first lecture was held in the Ulster Museum on 7th August ‘The Outbreak of the First World War’ by Dr William Mulligan, author of The origins of the First World War (Cambridge, 2010).

The second lecture, also at the Ulster Museum, was held on 25th September by Dr Catriona Pennell. Dr Pennell’s lecture ‘Ireland’s Entry into War, 1914: Acceptance or Refusal?’ explored Ireland at the outbreak of war and reactions to the European crisis.

The following two lectures were held at PRONI. 9th October, ‘Militarism in Ireland, 1912-18’ by Professor David Fitzpatrick and on 23rd October, ‘If the nation is to be saved women must help in the saving’ by Dr Senia Paseta. 2015/01/20 # NMNI # September 2014 # 002

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