WW1 narratives of transformation: Their story, our story
Project Blog: https://narrativesoftransformation.wordpress.com/
The project started as a collaboration between University Centre Blackburn College and Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery. The creative project was an opportunity for students on the Contemporary Textiles, Contemporary Fashion and Contemporary Interior Design programmes to work across disciplines and with museum curators to produce their own creative responses to the WW1 centenary.
The students explored the collections and engaged with the narratives and wider context of wartime Britain and the themes of Conflict, Change and Memory and their work was exhibited in the museum from June-November 2014. You can read and see more about this part of the project on the blog pages.
To extend and develop this collaboration students, academic and curatorial staff put together an application for Heritage Lottery Funding. This resulted in a successful bid and the 2nd stage of the project has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. This support has enabled more students from the University Centre across a range of discipline areas to collaborate with guest curators, artists and engage in workshops and events.
Summary of the project 2014-2015
We began our journey guided by Steve Irwin from Blackburn Museum and freelance curator Laura Briggs. We looked at and handled artefacts from the museum collections, which ranged from trench maps to periscopes and we listened to historical facts and stories about local residents, brought to life by the objects and the curators’ insights. Inspired by Laura and Steve, visiting Blackburn Library and using resources hosted on the University Centre Virtual Learning Environment we embarked on our own research processes.
Throughout the year we had creative input from international artist Paddy Hartley. We were very lucky to have Paddy join us. His work has been exhibited at venues throughout the UK, Europe, the USA and Australia. His work amongst other themes investigates memorialisation and remembrance, the origins of WW1 facial reconstruction and those who underwent the surgery. His work for ‘Project Facade’ responded to the surgical and personal stories of facially injured WW1 servicemen and Paddy gave us fascinating insight into this work, the materials and techniques he used for these pieces and his creative working process.
We held a creative writing and making workshop which focused on the postcard ‘silks’ that were popular throughout war time. Often these embroidered postcards were sent to loved ones to reassure them during this difficult time. Participants created their own poems and also created their own postcards based on observational paintings of flowers, printed fabric and embroidery.
Over 40 contributors including staff and students from Blackburn College sixth form as well the University Centre, members of the local community and the community centre and Women’s Institute in Banks, Southport, knitted, sewed or donated poppies to create a ‘sea of red’. A Children’s University event also contributed to this as well as creating their own postcards and jam pot labels! This work along with poems, ceramics, textile pieces and garments were exhibited at University Centre Blackburn College on the 25th November. To launch this exhibition we had an evening of poetry readings and a fascinating talk by battlefield historian Paul Garlington.
A selection of this work now resides in Blackburn Museum for this final exhibition and workshop held on the 12th December 2015. The workshop explored the postcards that were popular at the time through stitch and printed felt. Over 100 visitors came to the event with many taking part in the activity.
We explored the theme of transformation to inspire and create artwork and creative writing pieces to show how WW1 has shaped society through our own personal narratives. Many individuals have contributed to this project and we are very grateful to The Heritage Lottery Fund, the support of Blackburn College, Blackburn Museum and the Children’s University.