Imperial War Museum Build The Truce
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Image of Build a Truce exhibition at IWM London

Richard and IWM London staff with characters from the family storytelling sessions

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

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Iamge of Freedom From Torture Logo

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

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December 10 is Human Rights Day. In 2011 you watched as people around the world stood up for their rights and their freedom. Maybe you did too.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights belongs to all of us, and was the world’s international response to the shared horror of the Second World War. It sets out, in 30 separate articles, the promise made by the international community to the people of the world: to respect and protect humanity through a commitment to defending  basic, human rights.

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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).

 

 

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Following the Working For Peace Expo (September 18 & 19 ), two of the Expo’s participating organisations returned to IWMN last Sunday (September 25) as part of the Stone Flowers performance and album launch.  Stone Flowers are a creative music group supported by  Musicians without Borders and Freedom from Torture NW. They have a been described as “A moving and truthful journey with expressions of protest, peace, love and hope. An original song-cycle in English, Lingala, Farsi, Kurdish, French and Kikongo, influenced by folk, jazz, classical, spoken word and hip-hop music”.

Their music filled the Main Exhibition Space of the museum during two packed performances on Sunday and the audience erupted with applause after each song. Visitors of all ages were gathered to watch the Stone Flowers and comments were left by visitors who said the event was ”really important for thinking about war and peace and supporting survivors”.  The Stone Flowers CD album is available to buy here.

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Dr Alison Ronan is a member of the Research staff at Manchester Metropolitan University who recently completed a doctorate about anti-war women in Manchester 1914-1918. She has experience as a youth and community worker in the NW for 30 years, including volunteer work on a conflict resolution project in the community and in prisons.

Dr Ronan will give a short talk introducing some of Manchester’s pacifist and anti-war women activists, working for peace during the First World War. The talk will outline the astonishing local and national activist networks, often built on the pre-war socialist and suffrage groups in the city; and look at the Manchester branches of the Women’s International League, the No Conscription Fellowship and the short lived but energetic Women’s Peace Crusade in 1917. Central to all these campaigns was the feisty pacifist and feminist reformer, and Manchester’s first woman Councillor, Margaret Ashton (1856-1937)

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