Commemorating WW1: Conflict and Creativity

20 January 2016

Troops leaving Hyde Park on a route march, December 1914
Troops leaving Hyde Park on a route march, December 1914. © IWM (Q 53472)

The School of Music has been awarded prestigious AHRC Cultural Encounters funding to run a series of public engagement events commemorating the First World War. 

By engaging with diverse audiences on the theme of conflict and creativity, the project will explore how both war and commemoration of war are enacted in music, prose, verse, and visual images.

The funding will allow a Postdoctoral Research Associate to work with Cardiff University’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Opera and Drama (CIRO), co-directed by Dr Clair Rowden, School of Music, and Dr Monika Hennemann, School of Modern Languages, to design and deliver the events.

Dr Clair Rowden said: “This project is an excellent opportunity to develop our existing strategic partnerships with National Museum Wales and Welsh National Opera and showcase the wider impact of arts and humanities research. It will allow us to engage new audiences  –  school children, local community residents, museum visitors – with our research and form a distinctive part of continuing Cardiff-wide and UK-wide commemoration of the First World War.

“We are looking forward to developing new educational projects that will bring Cardiff secondary school students together in the study of war and how it is commemorated in literature and the arts. There are many interesting questions to explore: Who shapes narratives of history? How are they interpreted by different audiences? Is memory of WW1 in Wales different from that in other parts of the UK? How is the response in the UK different to that in parts of continental Europe?

“The results of these discussions with school students will not only contribute to a shared understanding of the past, our history, our art, our culture, but may well have an impact on shaping future commemorations of conflict.”

Planned events include:

  • Lunchtime lectures at National Museum Wales presented by academics from the University’s Schools of Music, Welsh, Modern Languages, and Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies. 
  • A ‘conflict and creativity’ workshop in the Grange Pavilion in partnership with Community Gateway in Grangetown. It will follow a talk on the Grangetown poet Rees Rees (Teifi) who wrote the earliest Welsh-language book of WW1 poetry and a session on poetry as a response to conflict. 
  • A day of public events at National Museum Wales to coincide with an exhibition on the art and poetry of Mametz Wood. There will be opportunities to hear a recital of little-known songs written by Ivor Novello and Clara Novello Davies during WW1 and attend talks on the Welsh experience of the Battle of the Somme, the poetry and songs it inspired, as well as issues of pacifism. 
  • Screenings of Geoffrey Malin’s and John McDowell‘s Battle of the Somme film (1916) in collaboration with National Museum Wales and the AHRC Voices of War and Peace project. The film will be screened, with live orchestral accompaniment by Cardiff University Symphony Orchestra, for both a school audience and for the general public. 
  • An international public symposium on musical and artistic creation in Europe during WW1 will bring together academics, world-class performers, secondary school children and the general public. In collaboration with Leuven University, Cardiff’s recently-signed strategic partner, and with the additional participation of the University of Heidelberg, this event will engage with the memorialisation of WW1 from the wider European perspective.