Breaking Ground Heritage Inaugural Conference, 21st February 2018
Breaking Ground Heritage Inaugural Conference, 21st February 2018. Tedworth House, Tidworth Wiltshire
Key Note Lecture by Dr. Heather Montgomery, “Training Kitchener’s New Army 1914-1918: Perspectives of the Irish Experience”.
The Breaking Ground Heritage team recently held their inaugural conference at the Help for Heroes recovery centre at Tedworth House, Wiltshire. The day was superbly organised, and led by the veterans, themselves showcasing all of the projects that had been undertaken over the past 12 months. Talks revealed findings from excavations at sites including, 19th century cemeteries, First World War training landscapes (Barry Buddon Ranges, Scotland), tank attacks of the First World War (Bullecourt, France), Bronze-Age settlements and an Anglo-Saxon cemetery (Barrow Clump), which incidentally revealed some fantastic grave goods.
The Breaking Ground Heritage team are a Community Interest Company (C.I.C), created by ex-military personnel, to assist in the recovery of veterans or serving personnel using heritage as a pathway.
Alongside their partners at Operation Nightingale, the community group have developed a recovery pathway utilising archaeology and heritage as a means to “bring like-minded people together, all of whom share a connection, the experience of military service and an inherent understanding of the complexities that this lifestyle can bring”. This fundamental experience provides Breaking Ground Heritage a platform to build upon, and help recreate positive narratives for the promotion of health, wellbeing and peer to peer support networks.
This is achieved by taking the transferable skills already rooted into the military community, such as reading and interpreting the ground, happiness in times of adversity and the inherent desire to succeed, and building upon these fundamental qualities with a shift of focus to the heritage sector. History, archaeology, experimental archaeology, heritage craft skills and project research are just some of the disciplines covered by Breaking Ground Heritage with volunteers able to participate in all or some of the themes that may trigger their interests. To find out more about Op Nightingale Archaeology, and the support they offer to BGH please follow this link - http://www.breakinggroundheritage.org.uk/operation-nightingale
Dickie Bennett of Breaking Ground Heritage revealed some of the excavations and research projects planned for 2018, giving conference attendees the first chance to sign up. With at least 14 weeks of excavations planned, as well as research projects, history festivals, training courses and volunteering opportunities, all running alongside, there will be plenty to participate in across the UK and beyond, watch out for the 2019 conference!
For further information on the work of Breaking Ground Heritage, please follow this link - http://www.breakinggroundheritage.org.uk/barrow-clump-excavation-2017
Above: (Left to right) Dr Paul Everill, Winchester University, Robert Cummings, Rob Steel and Kris Conlin speaking about the Winchester University Veterans Degree Programme facilitated by Help for Hero’s. The three students have progressed to the latter stages of their Degree, an excellent representation of this pioneering university initiative!
Above: Keynote Speaker, Dr. Heather Montgomery of Living Legacies WW1 Public Engagement Centre, Queens University Belfast, discussing the British Army Training Landscapes of Ireland during the First World War.
Above: Briony Clifton of the National Trust spoke about a wonderful new project that Breaking Ground Heritage hope to be involved in during the summer months, working with the AHRC funded project lead by the University of Southampton, ‘Living with Monuments: life and cultural landscape between the 4th and 2nd millennia BC in the Avebury region, Wiltshire’
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, Kurt Taroff and Michelle Young from the AHRC-funded “Living Legacies 1914-18” engagement centre, led a full-day workshop in the Brian Friel Theatre at Queen’s University Belfast.
The event brought together representatives from community groups from all over the UK to explore how the groups could involve their members and their broader communities in research on the First World War and disseminate this research through performance. The community 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
The event forms part of the ‘Performing Commemorations’ project, linking three of the WW1 Public engagement centres. We began the day with introductions and the debut of a 20-minute video recapping the crowning achievement of the Medals All Round Research Initiative (MARRI) project, a Living Legacies funded project from 2016. 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 have achieved, and the type of work we’re hoping might come out of the workshop and our interaction with the groups gathered for the day.
A demonstration of how in-depth research on individual stories from the war could be a catalyst for these types of projects followed the video-screening. Here, 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. This story arose from a project called ‘The Men Behind the Glass’, funded by HLF (https://menbehindtheglass.co.uk/our-story), which involves researchers from Living Legacies.
From the ‘Men Behind the Glass’ project a story unfolds, starting in February 1912 when 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. McConnell 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.
(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’, followed by ‘War, the taker of lives’, and finally, ‘In the Trenches’. 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.
(Building a scene: ‘War, the taker of lives’)
(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.
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 workshop shows how powerful creative practice and dramatic performance is in engaging community groups in exploring stories from a century ago, going ‘beyond the trenches’ in ways that deepen the significance of the war through connecting communities. The workshop provides a model for community-led drama and the potential that exists in combining HLF and AHRC-funded projects to mutual benefit and gain.
Making Memory and Legacy: Virtual Archives of Conflict from WW1 to the Troubles.
On Wednesday March 14, 2018, Living Legacies’ Dr Johanne Devlin Trew (Ulster University) participated in a community conference and exhibition entitled Irish Republican Prison Crafts: Making Memory and Legacy, held at Belfast’s historical Crumlin Road Gaol. It showcased the Heritage Lottery funded project of Coiste na nIarchimí [Republican ex-prisoners organisation], supported by Living Legacies, Ulster University and The Open University. The goal of the project was to create a virtual archive of conflict-related Republican prison crafts that are in the possession of prisoner families and to capture the stories surrounding these objects of memory.
Prisoner families and Republican organisations from West Belfast and further afield in Armagh and Tyrone were asked to bring their prison crafts for display – many more were brought in than expected – and a few local collections also contributed Republican crafts for display. Due to issues of stigma and shame relating to participation in the British army in certain sections of the community, a significant proportion of this material had been kept carefully hidden in families and rarely if ever discussed over the past one hundred years.
The exhibition was opened by Stormont MLA Gerry Kelly, himself a former Republican prisoner and was followed by a presentation by artist Alison Mac Cormaic entitled, The Gifting and Display of Long Kesh / Maze Handicrafts, 1971-2016.
Gerry Kelly, MLA for North Belfast, opening the event. Credit: Johanne Devlin Trew
Next on the programme was a panel discussion involving one prisoner family member, a volunteer interviewer and a craft maker [ex-prisoner] who related their personal experiences of participating in the project and their views on the importance of the recovery and preservation of Republican heritage of the Troubles period.
Panel of family member, volunteer and craft maker in discussion with the audience. Credit: Johanne Devlin Trew
The objects in the exhibition, crafted by both male and female Republican prisoners, were dated from the 1950s to the 1990s, and comprised objects made of wood, leather, textiles, calligraphy and paintings, and other artefacts included photographs, poems, letters and cards. Several of the craft items had been inspired by the 1916 period including a commemorative quilt to the Irish women of 1916 made for the centenary by members of the ex-prisoner family support group, Tar Anall. The project interviews reveal family histories of participation in earlier conflicts such as WW1 and WW2, as well as the more recent Troubles. A virtual archive, Ceardaíocht [craft], will be completed by July 2018.
The steering committee and community volunteers were gratified by the level of community response and the strong desire expressed in the closing discussion that the project be extended to cover a wider territory of the North of Ireland.
Republican Prison Crafts on display to a full house. Credit: Johanne Devlin Trew
Commemorative quilt to the Irish women of 1916. Credit: Johanne Devlin Trew
Workshop in collaboration with Living Legacies 1914-18, Queen’s University Belfast
‘Commemorating Battle of the Somme’
On Monday 21st May, over 70 school children from four schools across Northern Ireland attended a Living Legacies-led Open Day at Queen's University, in partnership with Patricia Hampson and the QUB Widening Participation Unit, undertaken as part of the School-University Partnership Initiative (SUPI). Three workshop sessions were organised and facilitated by Living Legacies team members: 1) Mapping the Front with Prof Keith Lilley (SNBE) - a practical session using historical maps to track the changing boundaries of the Western Front, 2) WW1 Drama with Dr Michelle Young and Dr Kurt Taroff (School of Arts, English & Languages) - a practical session which explored how drama could be used to bring WW1 stories to life. Students were invited to write letters home from the Front and took part in small interactive drama activities pretending to be contemporary personas, 3) WW1 Handling Box/3D Technology & Green Screen Booth with Clare Ablett (NMNI), Anthony Anderson & Elaine Reid (CDDA) - a hands-on session where students could handle genuine and replica WW1 objects, try on British & German army attire and nurses uniforms and have a take-home green-screened photograph of themselves in the trenches.
Mapping the Front
The session also included a short presentation on current 3D technology being used by the Living Legacies team including hyperphotos, photogrametry and 3D modelling. The day was a resounding success with pupils stating they would love to come back to another similar event. The drama session was especially popular and feedback indicates that the day was both enjoyable but also informative, with attendees noting that they learned lots of new information about WW1 that would help them in their school projects. Some comments from teachers accompanying the children included 'the day was extremely well organised from start to finish with plenty of staff around so there were always people around who knew the answers to any queries', 'the workshops were very interesting and engaging for the students and they really enjoyed them' and 'the activities and excellent resources were very appropriate for the students and they had a lot of fun dressing up for the green-screen booth - the photos were brilliant - they will have them forever!'
WW1 Digital Technologies
Ballykinlar History Hut
A Shared History & Culture Project, Linking the Past to the Future
Down County Museum is pleased to confirm the receipt of EU PEACE IV funding for the development of the ‘Ballykinlar History Hut’, building positive relations project. The project hopes to consider myths and perceptions of past lives lived within Ballykinlar Camp, offering a unique understanding on how this past links to our future; taking wisdom from what went before, and building it into our future learning while developing approaches to culturally clashing situations.
This project is supported by the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). Primary objectives of the project are: The promotion of positive relations characterised by respect, where cultural diversity is celebrated, and people can live, learn and socialise together, free from prejudice, hate and intolerance.
A strong community engagement programme will be key, and working with our project partners at Queen’s University Belfast, Centre for Data Digitisation and Analysis & Living Legacies 1914-18 Public Engagement Centre, we will provide opportunities for sustained, meaningful and purposeful connections between individuals and groups of different backgrounds, on a cross border basis. The project will pay particular attention to minority groups and those who traditionally have been marginalised in society, so that opportunities will be created that allow for a greater degree of participation and integration within modern society. It is hoped that strong local partnerships will be forged, an outcome already greatly supported through previous EU PEACE money programmes.
The Chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Councillor Mark Murnin explained ‘The Council is very excited to be working with the CDDA at Queen’s University Belfast to create a shared community resource and archive. This EU funded project will focus on the use of Ballykinlar Camp in the first half of the 20th century, particularly during the period 1914-21, by engaging with local people, digitising 2,000 artefacts and creating a virtual experience for the recreated Ballykinlar History Hut at Down County Museum’.
Marking this Decade of Centenaries, Down County Museum will reconstruct and provide interpretation of a 1900s period timber ‘Armstrong Hut’, salvaged from Ballykinler Camp in 2012. The hut will be reconstructed in the central courtyard of Down County Museum and made open to the public by September 2019. The history hut will be a focal point for the community engagement element of the project, and will enable local people to come together to preserve the memories and heritage of those who lived within the Ballykinlar Camp, telling the stories of its occupants throughout its many periods of use.
The ‘Ballykinlar History Hut’ will provide the repository for much of the collected narratives, photographs, newspaper clippings, documents, letters and keepsakes, affording a physical connection to the past, and a vivid picture of what life for soldiers, internees and refugees would have been.
If you would like to be involved in this project, please contact:
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council
Down County Museum
The Mall, English Street
Downpatrick BT30 6AH
Tel 028 44615218