Strike a Light – Arts & Heritage is pleased to be part of this report Reflections on the Centenary of the First World War: Learning and Legacies for the Future from University of Essex and created by researchers and academics from First World War Engagement Centres between 2014-2019.
We are featured for a number of our WWI based projects which took place through the centenary including The Orange Lilies project (https://theorangelilies.wordpress.com/), Dr Blighty (https://strikealight.org/projects/dr-blighty-2/) and Shalom Sussex (http://shalomsussex.co.uk/) amongst others.
The ‘long centenary’ of the First World War saw academic and community researchers come together in unprecedented numbers to work on co-produced projects researching and communicating wide-ranging aspects and experiences of the First World War.
While many of these focused on the experiences and memorialisation of male soldiers, particularly on the Western Front of Northern France and Belgium, many others explored different elements of the war, including the experiences of imperial soldiers, the legacies of these experiences for their descendants, and the war on the home front.
The First World War centenary saw unprecedented interest, and high levels of engagement, from the wider public. By 2018, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) had awarded £94.2 million to support over 2,000 projects across the United Kingdom. Many of these were funded under the HLF’s First World War: Then and Now programme, which awarded projects between £3000-£10,000 in funding. HLF evaluation in 2017 estimated that by that point in the centenary 7.1 million people had participated in HLF-funded First World War centenary projects.
Building on their previous All Our Stories partnership, which ran between 2012-2013, and saw 21 universities funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to work with HLF funded All Our Stories projects, the AHRC worked with the HLF to develop a funding programme that would support academic researchers to work with community groups on projects related to the First World War centenary.
In 2014 the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) announced the creation of five First World War Engagement Centres. These Engagement Centres were to connect academic and community research into the First World War between 2014-2019.
Between 2017-2021 the AHRC funded the Reflections on the Centenary: Learning and Legacies for the Future research project. The key aims of this project were two-fold:
1. To reflect upon the co-production of knowledge and its legacies associated with the First World War centenary across the UK, with a particular emphasis on the role and work of the five First World War Engagement Centres.
2. To record and consider the multiple ways that the centenary of the First World War in the UK has both drawn upon and shaped attitudes to, knowledge of, and feelings about the conflict more broadly.
This Report addresses the first aim, in that it examines the structures, relationships and outcomes of the First World War Engagement Centres, and considers the legacies of their work for the future, and the lessons that colleagues can learn from their work.
Strike a Light – Arts & Heritage embraced this period of time and really worked on bringing hidden and untold stories to light during this time, including exploring the lives of the Labour Corps, often men from countries in Africa, the Caribbean and India who were often treated poorly despite joining up voluntarily.
We also looked at conscientious objectors, the role of women through our Trailblazing project and the voices of Jewish People in Sussex during 1914-1918.
We have been really happy to have been part of this work around the centenary of the First World War, and to work so collaboratively with experts, academics, community researchers and volunteers to bring so many diverse projects to life!