Following on from the First World War Engagement Centres Everyday Lives in War and Hidden Histories we now look at Voices of War and Peace: the Great War and its legacy. Voices of War – or Voices as it will be referred to henceforth in this piece – is based in the Library of Birmingham and led by the University of Birmingham. Voices is a joint initiative across the Midlands with Birmingham City University, Newman University, the University of Wolverhampton and the University of Worcester, and further afield with the University of Glasgow, Manchester Metropolitan University and Cardiff University. Voices will support a wide range of community engagement activities, connecting academic and public histories of the First World War as part of the commemoration of the War’s centenary which begins this year.
Voices is led by Professor Ian Grosvenor from the School of Education at the University of Birmingham who also has responsibility for city and cultural liaison, and co-ordinated by Dr Nicola Gauld, a freelance curator and experienced project outreach worker. Co-Investigators from the eight partner institutions will work in collaboration with community groups researching the First World War: Professor Maggie Andrews, Professor of Cultural History at the University of Worcester; Dr Spencer Jones, Research Fellow in War Studies at the University of Wolverhampton; Dr Siân Roberts, Collection Curator at the Library of Birmingham and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham; Dr Joanne Sayner, Senior Lecturer in Cultural Theory and German Studies at the University of Birmingham; Dr Michael Snape, Reader in Religion, War and Society at the University of Birmingham; Dr Chris Upton, Reader in Public History at Newman University Birmingham; Professor Melanie Tebbutt, Reader in History at Manchester Metropolitan University; Dr Charlotte Methuen, Lecturer in Church History at the University of Glasgow; and Dr Jenny Kidd, Lecturer in the School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies at Cardiff University. There is also a research network attached to the Centre, which consists of academics drawn from a variety of disciplines and with direct links to a range of research centres. Collectively they bring both relevant knowledge and experience to enable Voices to effectively support community research. In addition there are over 50 cultural partners including Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery, Sampad, the Cheltenham Festivals, the People’s History Museum, the BBC and YMCA England.
As well as exploring the impact of the Great War on communities in Birmingham and the Midlands, Voices will focus on themes of national importance. These include Gender and the Home Front, led by Professor Maggie Andrews, Belief and the Great War, led by Dr Michael Snape, and Commemoration, led by Dr Joanne Sayner. Among the other questions Voices will explore are questions around the legacy of the War – not only what happened between 1914 and 1918 but also the impact that the War continued to have during subsequent years, for example, by 1916 training programmes for soldiers with disabilities were being held in Birmingham’s famous Jewellery Quarter and by 1930 child guidance clinics had been set up – almost certainly the result of the emotional turmoil caused to youngsters during the War.
Voices was launched at the Library of Birmingham in March. The event brought together over 200 delegates who represented a wide variety of community, cultural and academic organisations from across the Midlands and further afield. The programme featured readings of archive material by local schoolchildren, speeches from local councillors, poetry performances from Stoke-based community group DJ School, who have received support from the Heritage Lottery Fund for their project ‘Remembrance Poets’, and a debate with members of the Centre on why we are commemorating the First World War. The event also saw the unveiling of the Centre’s website, www.voicesofwarandpeace.org. The site includes a wide range of articles, resource material and event listings and will be the main point of contact for community groups interested in working with Voices. Voices is also using social media to extend its reach, advertise events and share research and resources. You can follow Voices on Twitter via @Voices_WW1. Voices is now delivering a series of workshop events for community groups and members of the public. These cover a wide range of topics around the First World War and its commemoration. Voices is looking forward to meeting with groups that are already working on First World War-related projects and also with groups that may have ideas for projects but would like guidance and support. If you wish to find out more about Voices or how you can get involved with the Centre’s work, email firstname.lastname@example.org.