Updated News 5th February 2018
Campbell College’s Men Behind The Glass Project
Living Legacies Project Officer, Michelle Young has just completed a successful series of creative and interactive drama workshops with Primary schools across East Belfast as part of Campbell College’s Men Behind The Glass project – a major restoration, education and community engagement initiative supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and focuses on the archives of this historic school.
The Men Behind the Glass involves a cross-section of schools and communities throughout East Belfast. The project, which is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, has been inspired by the WW1 heritage of the College and focuses on the photographs of 126 pupils and one member of staff who lost their lives in WW1. These pictures which are embedded in the Edwardian wood panelling in the College’s Central Hall have been deteriorating over time and the project is working with the Public Record Office in Northern Ireland (PRONI) to preserve and digitally restore the images while researchers work to uncover the real-life stories of the men – their personal family lives and their military service.
Mukesh Sharma, MBE, Committee Member for the Heritage Lottery Fund explained the importance of this project as “an exciting opportunity to open up the archives of Campbell College whose pupils played a key role in both WW1 and WW2. It offers the chance to pay respect to those lives lost but also to involve the whole community - encouraging everyone to tell the stories behind not just these 126 men, but all the men from East Belfast who made the ultimate sacrifice in WW1.”
Crucial to The Men Behind the Glass project is the engagement with other schools and the wider community and this January, Living Legacies Michelle Young was employed as the Creative Engagement Manager designing a storytelling and drama initiative which was delivered in Schools throughout East Belfast and the Bangor area.
The Time Traveller workshops toured a number of primary schools and introduced over 500 children to some of the 127 pupils from Campbell College who were lost in WW1. The project used performance and creative techniques to explore how drama can allow young people to interact with the real life and personal stories of those young men, many of whom lived in their own localities over 100 years ago.
The workshop was centred on the life of one of the men, Robert McConnell whose school life at Campbell and war journey was documented through a number of letters he sent home. His story was told through a performance by local actors, Chris Grant who played the role of Robert and Mary McGurk who took on the role of Campbell College teacher Miss Margaret Bole. Robert. Pupils then engaged in a series of creative writing and drama tasks based on letters and postcards sent home from the front before presenting the story of their soldier in a short performance.
The workshops proved to be hugely successful with pupils learning about the stories behind the men behind the glass, their lives at Campbell College and their service in the war. Teachers commented on how engaged their pupils were in the workshop and how the use of drama enhanced their learning experience, giving them an excellent insight into the sacrifice made by the young men from Campbell College.
Mark McKee, Campbell College’s Primary School Liaison Teacher, who came along to one of the workshops said, “The concept was excellent, with such a range of stimuli and learning opportunities. It was clear that the children enjoyed the range of activities greatly – they were engaged and willing throughout. Well done – such a positive experience for all concerned.”
Campbell College website
The Men behind The Glass Website
Vist The Communty Projects Page
Engaging Young People of the Greater Dunmurry Community Association
On Thursday 8th of February, the first of four Living Legacies workshop sessions was held in Dunmurry Community Centre. The Greater Dunmurry Community Association group had requested a bespoke research package to be delivered to a group of 20 young people, prior to their planned battlefield tour of Belgium (March 2018). The workshop aimed to facilitate the generation of diverse stories through discussion and collaboration, helping young people to build upon a shared understanding of the legacies of the First World War.
Living Legacies’ Dr Heather Montgomery discussed practical methods that could be used to explore and research individual soldiers involved in the Battle of Messines 1917. The young people and their group leaders were shown how to form focused research questions, selecting relevant sources related to their upcoming tour.
The group identified names of several men from the Greater Dunmurry area engaged in the Battle of Messines, and wanted to find out as much as possible about the lives of these men, in advance of their field trip. While in Belgium they also hope to visit the graves of some of the men they have identified and as such needed advice on the most appropriate methods to locate the grave sites, such as using the Commonwealth War Graves website.
Billy Thompson (Chairperson) and the Greater Dunmurry Community Association (Community Engagement Network) have been working with cross-community groups to reduce interface violence, while developing inter-communal relations and community-building capacities within the greater Dunmurry area. The project culminates in March 2018 with a battlefield tour of Belgium – with the caveat that all of the group engage with six-month research process prior to the field trip. The young people have now all completed their OCN in Irish History as part of this project.
In preparation for the battlefield tour, the group also requested background historical information on the movements of the 16th (Irish) Division and the 36th (Ulster) Division during the Battle of Messines 1917.
Dr Tom Thorpe, presented a great visual picture of the battle which provided both context and reality to the movements of both Irish Divisions in 1917. Attendees gained some concept of the scale of the battle which will be built upon during their trip.
The evening also was also marked by celebrating the work of Billy Thompson and the team at Greater Dunmurry Community Association with a presentation from some of the young people, thanking them all for the work they had undertaken within the community. (Apparently it’s not easy to surprise Billy, but they definitely did on this occasion!)
"Last nights session went extremely well and we had approximately 20 participants. Heather and Tom were excellent and kept the group focused and interested" Billy Thompson, Chairperson