To commemorate the First World War’s centenary which begins this year, five First World War Engagement Centres were established in February 2014 by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in partnership with the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The rationale is to support community research projects about the conflict through connecting academic and public histories of the First World War and to facilitate further community engagement with the centenary. Each of the five centres is focusing on a particular set of themes which will inform the respective commemorative events and activities though it is expected that the themes will evolve to adapt to the interests of various community groups. Examples of events and activities that are already taking place or are scheduled to happen across the U.K comprise open lectures, conferences, archive tours, family history workshops and battlefield visits among many other things.
The five centres are based and ran at specific universities, are expected to last for at least three years throughout which the centenary of 1914-1918 will be commemorated, are a part of the First World War Centenary Partnership led by Imperial War Museums and are involved with the BBC’s World War One at Home Project. They constitute the following:
- Voices of War and Peace: the Great War and its legacy (University of Birmingham);
- Gateways to the First World War (University of Kent);
- Everyday Lives in War: Experience and Memory of the FWW (University of Hertfordshire);
- Living Legacies 1914-18: From past conflict to shared future (Queen’s University Belfast);
- Centre for Hidden Histories: Community, Commemoration and the First World War (University of Nottingham).
We are in contact with the Everyday Lives in War: Experience and Memory of the FWW Centre and as such, I would like to highlight their work below. Led by the University of Hertfordshire, in collaboration with the Universities of Essex, Northampton, Exeter, Lincoln and Central Lancashire, the Centre aims to connect and encourage academic and community research on the First World War as part of the Centenary. It helps communities to research questions such as: How did war affect daily life between 1914 and 1918? What was the legacy of the conflict?
The Everyday Lives in War Centre has particular expertise in:
- First World War food and farming;
- Theatre and entertainment;
- Conscientious objection and military tribunals;
- Supernatural beliefs;
- Family relationships;
- Cartoons, trench publications and popular culture.
The Centre runs a programme of open events, free workshops and online resources related to its themes, liaises with the Heritage Lottery Fund to support HLF-funded projects, and also welcomes enquiries and ideas from individuals or groups with no HLF connections. Depending on the topic, Everyday Lives in War will either be able to point people in the right direction to follow their interests, or may suggest ways of working together. The Centre is curious about stories of everyday life and particularly interested in exploring comparative perspectives through which communities across the UK can research and share diverse First World War histories and legacies. The Centre is keen to know what people are working on and is currently looking for effective ways of broadening its reach across the U.K by making new connections, partnerships or collaborations with groups and individuals from all walks of life. For more details about upcoming commemorative events and activities or about the work of the Centre more generally, visit www.herts.ac.uk/everyday-lives-in-war or contact the Centre at firstname.lastname@example.org.