Free CONVERSATION CAFÉS took place on the second Wednesday of every month from October 2015 as part of the project The Boys on the Plaque: Unearthing Hidden Histories of WWI Soldiers from Brighton & Hove. Workshops were facilitated by Nicola Benge (Strike a Light), who used Holy Trinity, the plaque and the local area to look into participant histories.

The programme of events included:

  • March 9th – Meet at Jubilee Library Presentation by Stoolball England Officer Anita Broad on sport in Sussex during WWI. WWI Book discussion session (part of World Book Day)
  • April 13 – Meet at Fabrica Dr Sam Carroll of Gateways to First World War talking about the project. Historian Douglas d’Enno also to present his new book ‘Brighton in the Great War’. We start reading Belonging by Umi Sinha.
  •  May 11th – Meet at Fabrica Jo Palache of Brighton Museum, talks about piecing together stories of soldiers at the Pavilion Military Hospital and for the ‘War Stories’ exhibition.’
  • June 8th  – Meet at Jubilee Library. Outing to Brighton Museum to view the WWI in Brighton themed Pavilion Blues exhibition. Free. Start new book The Suicide Club by Andrew Williams.
  •  July 13th – Meet at the Rare Books Archive, Jubilee Library, Brighton – Dr Anne Logan discusses the role of women in the First World War.
  • August 10th – No Session
  • September 14th (3-5pm NEW TIME!)- Meet at Fabrica gallery, 40 Duke Street, Brighton BN1 1AG –  A discussion of our themes and events. This session will host visitors from the WWI themed Brighton’s Graphic War book project from QueenSpark Books, and a look at an earlier book Brighton the Graphic Novel on e-readers.
  • October 12th (2.30-4.30pm) – Meet at Fabrica gallery, 40 Duke Street, Brighton BN1 1AG – The Boys on the Plaque research group to give a presentation on soldiers from the city of Brighton and Hove to the group.

Sessions were organised in partnership with:

  • Strike A Light: A local voluntary arts and heritage organisation using people’s life stories and memories to transform public and private spaces, specialising in intergenerational projects and working with people in the third age.
  • Brighton and Hove Library Services: Jubilee and Hove Libraries: Lucy Castle  – Community Engagement Manager:
  • University of the Third Age (U3A) Local History Group: A learning co-operative of people no longer in full time employment. With over 450 members and educational, creative and social. Alan Cooke – Chairman of Brighton and Hove U3A and Coordinator of U3A Local History Group.

The Boys on the Plaque project included talks from Dr Chris Kempshall, Project Coordinator of the WWI in East Sussex project, outings to the Rare Books Archive and more. Discussions were led around themes inspired by The Boys on the Plaque, including life in Brighton & Hove during WWI, historical experiences of ordinary men and women, and life after the war. We also considered wider themes about the church in the community, and Holy Trinity’s history with its bi-centennial in 2017. Participants gained an in-depth knowledge of Holy Trinity as church and gallery over the project.

Information and copies of selected heritage materials found by our research group were shared with older and younger people through our Conversation Cafes and Graffiti workshops, and intergenerational groups at our free Walking Tours,  Heritage Open Days events on Thursday 8th September 2016 and Friday 9th September 2016 and Bi-Centennial celebration in 2017, increasing the reach and impact of our research.

We connected people with local places associated with WWI, through investigation of our locality, sharing our findings through Walking Tours of the area and events based at Fabrica (a Grade II* listed building). Nicola Benge (Strike a Light) worked with members of University of the Third Age and other individuals to share stories, memories, family history and local history (using information generated by the Volunteer Researchers), and took part in object handling to establish a meaningful history of ordinary people’s lives in Brighton & Hove.

These were recorded for posterity, to inform the project as a whole and to help to build a long-lasting relationship between the participants and Fabrica.

Academics, historians and researchers were incorporated into our activities, their research and skills enabling a high quality learning experience for volunteers and participants, and significantly enriching our public programme.