BCU took part in the collaborative Voices of War and Peace project, specifically investigating the contribution of black soldiers and modern commemorations of the Great War.
Voices of War and Peace: the Great War and its Legacy was a First World War Engagement Centre funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and in partnership with the Heritage Lottery Fund. It was led by University of Birmingham, in partnership Birmingham City University, University of Wolverhampton, University of Worcester, Cardiff University, University of Durham, Manchester Metropolitan University and Newcastle University. In the main project, researchers from BCU led on monitoring and evaluation, and were central to the follow-on funding work. We also ran two sub-projects supported through the centre: Minding Black Histories in War Times and Generations of Commemoration: Re-Presenting the Legacy of the Great War.
The overall project was concerned with the centenary of the Great War, working with community groups to find out more about the Great War in general, but particularly around the themes of Belief and the Great War; Childhood; Cities at War; Commemoration; Gender and the Home Front; and Peace and Conflict.
Minding Black Histories in War Times focused on remembering, acknowledging and documenting the contributions of ‘Black Poppies’ (Black soldiers) in the war, an issue about which we know relatively little. The project worked with the Black, African and Caribbean communities in Birmingham and the West Midlands to understand more about the role Black Poppies played.
Generations of Commemoration: Re-Presenting the Legacy of the Great War explored the commemoration of the Great War and its legacies by engaging with its memorialization and commemoration amongst children, as a mode of public history making. We worked with Birmingham-based Secret City Arts, building on their HLF-funded ‘From Handsworth to Flanders Field’ project. We hoped to understand more about the ongoing practices of commemoration of an event which was distant in a variety of ways. This work led to a toolkit for educators, community groups, local history societies and individuals interested in working with archives which outlines some methods for using audio-visual (AV) archives in creative, effective and memorable public history projects.
A range of methods were used across the main and sub-projects, based on the sensibilities and approaches of community partners. Fulfilling the strong impact-orientation of the project, workshops and public events were commonplace, and attention paid to producing community resources.
The work of the project informed huge range of outcomes, and significant impact, underpinned by the follow-on funded period. The project is documented in extensive detail at https://www.voicesofwarandpeace.org and the Generations of Commemoration toolkit can be found here.