I directed the Build the Truce film now installed at IWM London, having worked on the project for several months with curators Catherine Roberts at IWM and Dr Tim Jacoby (University of Manchester). Becoming involved in a project like this can be daunting. There’s masses of research to do, new expressions to learn and experts to talk to. The learning curve is steep but once the research has started you wonder how on earth you went through your life not thinking about this stuff before.
I have had the most amazing weekends at the Imperial War Museum North and IWM London this month, working with families delivering our new story as part of ‘Build the Truce’. My brief as a writer and storyteller was to create a piece which could explain about conflict and truce for a family audience. Given the freedom to choose how I approached the challenge by Catherine Roberts who commissioned the piece I chose slugs and snails. A simple story of how conflict can escalate and become war, told from the perspective of the two main characters: Sadie and Silas, a slug and a snail who point out to the adults how ridiculous it is that they are in conflict when they are so similar – separated mainly by only a shell. They encourage their elders to declare a truce. Told by myself and the IWM learning teams in both Manchester and London, this has been a fabulously creative and rewarding experience. Feedback from parents and grandparents has been excellent, it was really gratifying to see them all having fun as well as understanding the concept of truce.
Richard O’Neill, writer and storyteller
Freedom from Torture is the only organisation in the UK dedicated solely to the treatment of torture survivors. It provides medical consultation, forensic documentation of torture, psychological therapies and practical help for people who have survived the most horrific abuses of human rights. In its 25 years, Freedom from Torture has received referrals for over 50,000 people and has opened treatment centres in five major cities to meet the needs of torture survivors dispersed around the UK. Last year, almost 150 people from nearly 40 different countries were referred to Freedom from Torture’s North West centre in Manchester for help. For more information visit www.freedomfromtorture.org
I’m attending an event at the University of Manchester’s Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute this week – their seminars and discussions are always fascinating and this one should be no exception. It marks 40 years of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and their work – well worth venturing out into the cold so check if there are any places left at the bookings site.
We’ve had great support from the HCRI over the last year or two. We’ve interviewed several members of staff and postgrad students with firsthand experience of humanitarian crisis and conflict – their stories will add new dimensions to our archives and future exhibitions (updates coming soon on our new Truce displays, which are co-curated by HCRI’s Dr Tim Jacoby).