Following the success of Living Legacies' Brenda Winter Palmer's play Medal in the Drawer, it begins a series of performances in Belfast over the next week. The play has been used to great effect in Living Legacies research projects, as a stimulus for broader discussion about the nature of the war, political identities and the legacies which remain today.
Last night at a performance of the First World War play Medal in the Drawer, Paul Lamb the great nephew of Rifleman William Kerr commented, "This play is as close as my Great Uncle Willie will ever get to a wake." The play which centres round the story of Rifleman Willie Kerr, who was killed on 16th August 1917 in the Battle of Langemarck, was witnessed by an audience which included his only surviving nephew Clement Lamb (86) and his great, great nephews Thomas Palmer, (8) Connor Daly (9) and Luke O Hagen.(8). They were joined by numerous great nephews and nieces and great, great nephews and nieces. His great niece Brenda Winter Palmer who wrote the play said, " It was such an emotional evening and a real testimony to how theatre can act as means to memorialise and remember the dead of the FWW , bonding and re-uniting their descendants". The family plan to gather together on 16th August 2017 in Lijsennhoek cemetery near Ypres where Willie is buried to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of his death.
At the launch of the September - November Belfast Somme 100 programme, pictured from left: Karen O'Rawe, Chair of History Hub Ulster, and Antoinette Morelli, who stars in 'Medal in a Drawer' which runs in venues across Belfast from 27th - 30th September
Belfast Somme 100 today launch their September – November 2016 programme of commemorative events marking the centenary of the battles of the Somme, and the place of the Somme campaign within the First World War.
Karen O'Rawe, Chair of History Hub Ulster and Belfast Somme 100 said
'The impact of the Somme on Belfast is remembered in this, our final programme of events. The people of our small city heaved with tears of grief as their young men were killed and maimed, no matter what their background. Belfast Catholic, Protestant, Jew or Quaker - all served and died together at the Somme.
The close links between people can be seen in our programme of events. Follow Rifleman Willie Kerr, a young Catholic man who enlisted in the YCV in MEDAL IN THE DRAWER. See his friend, young Protestant Rifleman George Kirkwood on the big screen at City Hall as part of the CASTLETON LANTERNS Project. DR JOHANNE DEVLIN TREWE will give a lecture on the service of local nurses, like George Kirkwoods sisters Charlotte and Mary Ellen.
The Kirkwoods and Kerrs were just two Belfast families who received telegrams announcing the deaths of their sons. NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS takes us back to a village waiting, with dread and hope, for any news from the front.
A SOMME CONFERENCE, HEDGE SCHOOL and LECTURE SERIES as well as COMMEMORATIVE events draw together all the perspectives of this centennial year and aim to enhance our understanding of the impact of the Slaughter At the Somme'
The project focuses on the personalities and stories associated with the campaign and mark its place in the social and political history of Northern Ireland and pre-partition Ireland. The Belfast Somme 100 project aims to raise awareness of previously overlooked or submerged stories and personal connections that both the Somme and the events of 1916 have had with the broader history and development of Northern Ireland.
The programme runs for 141 days across Belfast, the exact duration of the Somme campaign in 1916, and this Autumn it features a range of commemorative events including concerts, film, lectures, walks, exhibitions, poetry, debates, theatre, children and family activities.
‘Medal in the Drawer’, a play by Brenda Winter Palmer which follows four volunteers from Belfast on their war-journey; The Year of the Somme: 1916 in Perspective conference in partnership with the Western Front Association which features a ranges of local and international speakers; Artists at the Somme with the visual artists, poets and musicians at the Ulster Museum; a series of talks at the Linen Hall Library; ‘No News is Good News’ a new play Philip Orr, will form a Kabosh promenade production at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum and take you back 100 years to meet the villagers who were desperate for news and awaiting telegrams from the front; a season of films at the Queen’s Film Theatre; Castleton Lanterns, refound images of servicemen after 95 years will be shown on the Big Screen at City Hall; The 1916 Centenaries, An Opportune Time for Reflection?, Hedge School in partnership with the Fellowship of the Messines Association, Battle of the Somme Centenary Concert at the Ulster Hall; and the programme culminates with a Keith Jeffery Memorial Lecture by Margaret MacMillan, Professor of International History at the University of Oxford.
Local events throughout Belfast will continue through till the end of November. Activities will include the opening of a new memorial and lighting of a beacon at Skegoneill Avenue in November, a Somme Day Community Festival to launch Tree Tank in South Belfast, the 'Row on Row' remembrance event at Pitt Park on 18th November and a new activity and learning book on the Somme to be circulated free to schools and community centres and interactive workshops aimed at educating children and young people.
The objectives of the Somme 100 project are to dispel myths and stereotypes, to promote and encourage dialogue within communities and with other communities and to create a space which allows the development of mutual understanding.
Belfast Somme 100 is run by History Hub Ulster with an Advisory Panel made up of experts in the period and community leaders. It is funded by Belfast City Council.
About History Hub Ulster
History Hub Ulster is a community based organisation. We aim to promote and produce projects and partnerships which are engaging to all members of the community and to instil a sense of pride in our ancestors’ achievements; To put family and communities at the centre of the historical narrative; To engage the communities of Ulster with their history by pursuing interesting and innovative projects which enhance the individual’s understanding of their shared heritage.
Please click here to download PDF for the Somme 100
PARTNERS IN TIME
Co-Operation Ireland: Entwined Histories Project
Drama Studies at Queen’s
Living Legacies Public Engagement Centre
2015 marked the second year of Co-operation Ireland’s flagship ‘Entwined Histories’ project, an on-going collaboration between Co-operation Ireland, Drama Studies at Queen’s University Belfast and the Living Legacies 1914-18 Research Centre. This partnership sought to explore ways in which drama and theatre could contribute to knowledge of, and research on, the First World War, as well as promoting understanding of that periods contested emotional and political legacies. Over the two years of its existence this collaboration has gone from strength to strength. So far 160 pupils from 12 schools across the community and across the border have participated in the programme and 12 under-graduate students have been trained as drama workshop leaders in order to facilitate the project. At the time of writing another 8 students are being trained in order to service another project for 80 pupils in October 2016. Our combined effort is singled out by a unique blend of community endeavour, research activity and pedagogy/training representing the respective interests and expertises of the partnerships involved.
2014 Project: Recruitment
The partnership began in 2014 when five QUB Drama Students, all members of the cast of Medal in the Drawer (a play about the First World War written by Living Legacies researcher Brenda Winter-Palmer) were specially trained to lead the Entwined Histories pupil participants in theatrical explorations of First World War history. Under the guidance of Project Director Jonathon Evershed, and alongside media experts from the Nerve Centre Derry, the student leaders worked through a series of process drama techniques to help pupils devise and present scenes on how and why young people were recruited to join the war effort from 1914 . Over a six week period, ‘mixed teams’ (in terms of religious and socio-economic background) formed new relationships through learning about past events. The final showcase at the Ulster Museum in November 2014 was a lively mixture of filmed and staged drama pieces which demonstrated an enhanced understanding of the period and its legacies. The student leaders benefited from the experience as much as the school pupils by gaining new skills in the work-place of drama education and acquiring a greater understanding of a crucial period in the history of their own country.
2015: The Home Front
In 2015 Entwined Histories became the centre-piece and driving force behind a third –year theatre course in Drama Studies at Queen’s: the Applied Theatre Module. The Project Co-ordinator, Jonathan Evershed, was involved in developing the content for and teaching of the module, and students who completed it were then invited to audition and interview for lead facilitator roles for 2015’s project. These lead facilitators thereby came to the project with a wealth of creative ideas, a working and practical knowledge of drama techniques and a familiarity with the project content. This experience allowed them to help their groups to produce thoughtful and reflexive dramatic pieces over the course of the project. As in 2014, the project also benefited from the involvement of four work-placement students enrolled on the ‘Working in Theatre’ module at Queen’s Drama who, working with and learning from the lead facilitators, were invaluable in leading the groups of young people through the project. Students were specifically trained to facilitate dramas on the impact of the War on the lives of women and children, the situation of those in ‘reserved occupations’, the plight of those left physically and psychologically damaged and the long term impact of the War on Irish society and politics. The final showcase was held in The Brian Friel Theatre at Queen’s in November 2015. The impact of having two student facilitators for each group of 18 pupils was evident in the level of performance and enthusiasm of all on stage.
Peter Sheridan, Chief Executive of Co-operation Ireland said:
“We were particularly excited in 2014 to begin a partnership with the Queen’s
University School of Creative Arts Drama Department – the student facilitators who have mentored our groups throughout the past 2 Entwined Histories projects have brought a fresh dimension and creative energy to our facilitation team
One student commented:
‘It has broadened my horizons to think about how lucky we are right now that we are not living in a war and it helped me see things from other people’s point of view because I would probably have just looked at in my way, the way I’ve been brought up to look at it’
A teacher said:
‘Some of the boys who would be aware of their history in terms of the First World
War from [a] Nationalist Catholic background would have seen the World War as almost a dirty word… they might have thought that it was a Protestant Unionist thing to join up and then through the project they’ve realised that there was a lot of people from their own backgrounds and they hear terms like “New Lodge”, “Falls”, areas of Belfast that they are fully aware of, hearing that people joined up from those areas, and I think that hits home really well in terms of realising that the First World War is not someone else’s history, it’s their history as well.'
ROLL ON 2016 AND A NEW ENTWINED HISTORIES ON THE EASTER RISING AND THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME