13th Report - Lessons from the First World War Centenary Contents

3A cross-nation approach

25.Alongside the evidence that we received about initiatives taking place in England, a strand running throughout the evidence that we received was the success of the commemorations in involving all four nations of the UK, in particular Northern Ireland. For example, the academic engagement centre at Queen’s University Belfast used visual arts to connect community groups in both Unionist and Nationalist areas. “A series of inclusive commemorative murals formed ‘The Poppy Trail’ in the Donegall Road area of South Belfast to mitigate a rising problem of racist and sectarian graffiti on local walls. In this sense the arts created for the public an imaginative, emotional and sensual bond with the past”.47 In another initiative, the 6th Connaught Rangers Research Group overcame “considerable hostility” through discussion and dialogue in order to highlight the participation of Belfast Nationalists who enlisted in the British Army, which was previously part of the city’s “hidden history”.48

26.14–18 NOW Director, Jenny Waldman, noted that the artist behind the We’re Here Because We’re Here commission was keen to ensure that it should take place across the whole of the UK. She acknowledged that putting historically accurate British soldiers in the streets of Northern Ireland “carried huge risks”49 but these were worked through with local partners and advisers who know these communities well. Ms Waldman told us: “the success of that project was evidence that the cultural community in the UK is immensely strong and the combination of contemporary arts and heritage is hugely successful, and that it is absolutely worth taking those bold risks”.50

27.The UK centenary programme ran in parallel to the “Decade of Centenaries” programme, an ongoing collaboration between the Northern Irish and Irish Governments.51 Alongside commemorating key events from the First World War, the programme commemorates the Centenary of the Ulster Covenant, the foundation of the Irish Volunteers, the Home Rule and Land Bills, the 1913 Lockout, and the 1916 Rising. The aim is to enhance understanding of and respect for events of importance among the population as a whole. Rt Hon Dr Murrison MP told us “it has been that Irish dimension that has been the most heartening and, for me, probably one of the most productive things that we have achieved”.52

28.The Scottish Government’s WW100 programme worked in close collaboration with 14–18 NOW, alongside a comprehensive range of arts and heritage initiatives implemented in partnership with PoppyScotland, Legion Scotland, local authorities and others. They noted “at each and every WW100 Scotland event there has been fresh interest as a new generation seeks to ensure that the events of the past are remembered”.53 The Welsh Government launched the Cymru’n Cofio Wales Remembers programme in 2013 delivering a range of commemorative and educational programmes across Wales, in collaboration with UK-wide organisations and in partnership with other nations especially France and Belgium. The Welsh Government commented that Wales delivered “a nation-wide commemoration”.54 Reflecting on cross-nation working, DCMS Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Lord Ashton said “there was absolutely no partisanship. There was tremendous enthusiasm not only from communities but from the devolved Administrations, from local authorities and from across Government as well”.55

International connections

29.The commemorations in the UK took place at the same time as similar events across the world. During our inquiry we heard from Deputy Australian High Commissioner Matt Anderson who provided insights on the ANZAC commemorations, which included a national cultural programme and commemorative events in each state and territory.56 Mr Anderson noted that the First World War was a “defining national event” for Australia and that:

Australia’s commemoration events did not just focus on 1914–1918; we commemorated through the 1914–1918 programme everything from Tobruk to Alamein, the Battle of Britain, the war in the air, the war in the seas, peacekeeping, Malaya, Borneo, Vietnam. Any anniversary that occurred throughout that period was funded under the 1914–1918 grants just to make sure that there was an unbroken line from service and sacrifice of the First World War to the current day.57

30.We also received evidence about international aspects to projects. For example, the London Transport Museum took their restored ‘battle buses’ to events in France and Belgium58 and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission ran an internship programme providing opportunities for young people to work at key sites in France and Belgium.59 14–18 NOW developed international collaborations including working with 60 international partners on touring commissions, and distribution of the They Shall Not Grow Old film60 which has been shown in every state of the United States as well as in Australia, New Zealand and Canada.61 The Imperial War Museum also worked extensively internationally, including with organisations in Australia, Ireland, Spain, Canada, Singapore and South Africa.62

Local networks

31.One of the largest community led programmes was ‘Step Short’ in Folkestone, which Rt Hon Dr Andrew Murrison MP referenced in the House of Commons as “a flagship for thousands of independent projects up and down the country that have been inspired by the centenary”.63

32.The Step Short project was created to remember the lives of the First World War service personnel and the role that the town played in their journey to and from the Western Front. There were over nine million movements of soldiers through the town, as from 1915 through to 1919, Folkestone became the main port of embarkation for the armed forces moving between England and France. The Step Short project raised funds to build a memorial arch which stands at the top of the Road of Remembrance, the road that links the upper part of the town to the harbour below. Many of the soldiers had marched down this road to the ships waiting to take them to France—the name ‘Step Short’ comes from the command given to the men as they marched downhill. On 4th August 2014, the arch was formally opened by HRH Prince Harry, as part of the national day of commemorations for the centenary of the outbreak of the war. In addition to this Step Short has created a searchable online record of the 42,000 names signed in the visitors books kept at the Mole Café on the Folkestone Harbour arm during the war. The Café itself was also recreated and run by Step Short volunteers during the centenary period.64

33.The centenary was successful in reaching all parts of the country, reflecting the fact that, in the whole of England and Wales, there are only 52 so-called “thankful villages” who saw all their soldiers return from the war.65 Every single community in Scotland and Northern Ireland lost someone66 and a 2014 estimate suggested that 26.7 million people have a British ancestor who served in the War.67 14–18 NOW ran events in all regions and nations of the UK68 and 98% of local authority areas received funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.69 Ros Kerslake told us:

We feel it was a successful endeavour to try to raise the profile of this and try to get people to understand the opportunity, at a community level, for them to engage and become involved in it. Just under 2,500 projects in total came forward, which is a significant number even within the context of the number of projects that we fund.70

34.Several written submissions that we received were from community groups supported by National Lottery Heritage Fund funding. The submission from Art Alert is typical in expressing the difference that the funder made: “Heritage Lottery were an excellent and supportive body, offering a clear and user-friendly means for our group to explore and learn more about WW1. Without this funding we would not have been able to deliver this project.”71 Sefton Library Service told us “The way the Heritage Lottery Fund managed the funding of this project allowed for the project to creatively evolve as it progressed, which enhanced the outcome.”72 However, academics at Northumbria University felt that the National Lottery Heritage Fund could have done more to network their funded projects, and to build awareness of potentially clashing events.73

35.While for many organisations the time-limited nature of the funding that they received affected the sustainability of their projects, we found that others were able to leverage additional resources locally. Sinfonia Viva used their grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund as seed funding to then secure a further £172,850 from trusts, public and private funders.74 The Dawlish World War One Project secured match funding from the local council and although the Lottery funding came to an end after two years the council has continued to support the project.75

36.The Imperial War Museums ran the First World War Centenary Partnership, a network of cultural and educational organisations involved in commemorations.76 Members had access to free digitised content and resources from the museum’s collections77 to use in their events and promotional material, and the opportunity to attend networking events and workshops aimed at facilitating collaboration.78 Diane Lees told us “we started off with this grand target of having 100 community organisations [in the partnership] by 2018, and we surpassed 4,100”79 and that these organisations reached 4.5 million people.80

37.The evidence that we received was very positive about the support provided by the partnership, especially the resources that community organisations were able to make use of,81 the coherence brought to organisations operating in the same local area,82 and the feeling of being “part of a wider heritage community”83 the partnership gave them. The Impressions Gallery in Bradford described the Centenary Partnership as great to work with, noting that this connection enabled them to showcase their work at Imperial War Museum London and to increase their profile online.84

38.We commend the “four nation” approach to the centenary, which was exceptionally successful. The DCMS should evaluate the measures that enabled this success, whether they were undertaken on a UK-wide or devolved basis, and assess whether they can be replicated in future UK-wide arts and heritage initiatives.

39.Our inquiry found that local networks were generally complementary to national work, and effective in bringing organisations together. The National Heritage Lottery Fund and the Imperial War Museums should consider how they can further nurture the networks that they have created, including facilitating dialogue between organisations working in the same localities.


47 First World War Engagement Centres [WWO121] Para 3

48 6th Connaught Rangers Research Group [WWO093]

49 Q13

50 Q13

52 Q50

53 WW100/The Scottish Commemorations Panel [WWO0069]

54 Welsh Government [WWO115] para 39

55 Q49

56 Further information is available at www.anzaccentenary.gov.au

57 Q5

58 London Transport Museum [WWO0090]

59 Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport [WWO0096]

60 Director Peter Jackson created a new film during the centenary using original footage from Imperial War Museums’ archive alongside BBC and IWM interviews with servicemen who fought in the conflict. There is more information about the film available at hwww.1418now.org.uk/commissions/new-film-peter-jackson/

61 Q38 [Jenny Waldman]

62 Q38 [Diane Lees]

63 HC Deb 26 June 2014 col 501 [Commons Chamber]

64 stepshort.co.uk/projects/

68 14–18 NOW [WWO0073] para 52

69 National Heritage Lottery Fund [WWO097] para 7

70 Q48

71 Art Alert [WWO0016] para 5

72 Sefton Library Service [WWO0034] para 19

73 Dr Ann-Marie Einhaus and Dr Katherine Baxter, Northumbria University [WWO108] para 4.4

74 Sinfonia Viva [WWO0059]

75 Dawlish World War One Project [WWO0042] para 2

76 Imperial War Museums supplementary evidence {WWO058] para 1.3

77 By 2019, IWM had digitised over 300 photographs, sounds and film clips from IWM’s First World War Archives, all of which were available to members for free. Imperial War Museums supplementary evidence [WWO058] para 2.6

78 Imperial War Museums supplementary evidence [WWO058] para 2.7

79 Q12

80 Q15

81 This point was made by Bassetlaw Museum [WWO005] para 6, Bottesford Community [WWO024] para 5, Lynsted with Kingsdown Society [WWO054] para 10 amongst others

82 Stoke on Trent City Council [WWO088] para 6

83 Association of English cathedrals [WWO086] para 24

84 Impressions Gallery [WWO072] para 8.1




Published: 16 July 2019