The Voices of War & Peace WW1 Engagement Centre, funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council and led by the University of Birmingham, was set up in January 2014 and its Coordinator, Dr Nicola Gauld, is based in the Library of Birmingham. There are 4 other Engagement Centres in the UK, established to provide UK-wide support for community groups funded through a range of Heritage Lottery Fund programmes, particularly its £6m ‘First World War: Then and Now’ community grants scheme.
Since it began in 2014 the Voices Centre has run a number of events exploring different aspects of the Great War, focusing on its research themes of Belief and the Great War, Cities at War, Childhood, Commemoration, Gender & the Home Front. Events included a training day for teachers in which staff from the city archives and art gallery explained ways of engaging young people using archives and objects, creative writing workshops in partnership with the Birmingham Literature Festival, a Wikipedia ‘editathon’ that aimed to increase the number of Wikipedia articles on pacifism and dissent and a series of study days exploring a range of topics. Since the Centre was established we have added over 40 articles to the website, topics range from Joseph Southall and Pacifism, to Caring for the Wounded in Local Communities, and The Fighting Warwicks and the South Staffs to Labour Unrest amongst Female Workers.More recently published articles include Prof Maggie Andrews’ (University of Worcester) on the Pershore Women’s Institute, the oldest WI in Worcestershire set up in late 1916, and a piece on Belgian refugees in Birmingham during the war contributed by Jolien de Vuyst, a doctoral student at Ghent University. The Centre also worked with the University’s Careers Network to support an undergraduate History student to work on a project called ‘On This Day’. Maeve Scally worked with the centre in 2015 and 2016 to research and transcribe content from local newspapers based on the Centre’s research themes of Gender, Childhood, Belief and Cities, which was then uploaded to the website 100 years after the event. See more here www.voicesofwarandpeace.org/category/on-this-day
The Centre has also recently awarded 11 projects funding from its community research fund. This enabled members of the Research Network to access up to £15,000 to work on projects co-designed in partnership with community organisations to explore the legacy of the Great War. Funded projects range from exploring the development of the Women’s Peace Crusade in the North-West in 1917 and 1918 to comparing chaplaincy and faith from the Great War with more recent campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan to researching the Quaker experiences of the First World War and its legacy. The Centre is now monitoring those projects to gather evidence around the benefits and challenges of academics and community partners working collaboratively. See more on those projects here http://www.voicesofwarandpeace.org/voices-projects/
In September the Centre will host another of its discussion events for community groups. ‘Diverse-city and the Great War’ will take place at the Library of Birmingham on September 5th from 11.30am-3.30pm and will engage with a number of culturally diverse Heritage Lottery Fund projects from across HLF regions. At the event we will also discuss an extension to the community research fund which will open for applications on August 1st (closing on October 3rd). Priority in this additional call will be given to projects that diversify engagement in centenary activities, including, for example, engagement with minority or marginalised groups in society, including BAME, and/or projects that seek to uncover hidden narratives or that strengthen the coverage of under-represented or hidden narratives or unheard/disregarded voices relating to the centenary.
As we look towards the next three years of commemorative activity we will continue to focus on our research themes but we also plan to explore the global character of the Great War (i.e. it was not a war that only involved European soldiers fighting in Europe, but people from across the Middle East, Africa and beyond) and on peace and the aftermath of war, working in partnership with the Peace Pledge Union.