In this first of a two-part blog, we hear from commemorative projects that have submitted listings for our digital portal, Mapping the Centenary. We invited contributors to reveal greater detail about the topics of their respective activities, what they sought to achieve, as well as to share a few ‘best practice’ tips based on their experiences.  

Our first Case Study project is ‘Six Streets Derby’, which was organised by the Six Streets History Group (Derby).

1) What motivated you to contribute to Mapping the Centenary?  

As a very ‘young’ history group (only established 5 years before this project) we were proud of what we had achieved and how positive the response was from our local community.

2) How would you describe your commemorative project or activity in five words? 

How war impacted Derby community.

3) Why did you decide to pursue this project?  

We wanted to see how national events affected a local community (a small area of Edwardian terraced houses) and to bring out the impact war had on all age groups – not just those fighting on the front line.

4) What went particularly well? Was there anything that did not go as expected or that surprised you? 

We were really surprised at how the stories of local people in World War One engaged current residents in the area. Residents were particularly interested in any stories that related to people who had lived in their house or street between 1914-1918 – this impact was increased by the use of pop-up exhibition panels linking people to particular houses. We fixed information panels to street furniture adjacent to the houses featured, as well as making these available to download from our website. In an area only developed from 1901, and where people move in and out, it was interesting to see that connections with an area need not be linked to inheritance and a long historical record.

People valued the fold out information leaflet we supplied to every house in the area as part of the project.

We did find it difficult to recruit volunteers to help with research – partly as our Local Studies Library was closed during a major part of our two year project.

5) Did your involvement change your understanding of the First World War, and if so, in what way?  

We were surprised at the broad involvement of the community, for instance finding out that children were collecting conkers for cordite. The number of Belgian refugees cared for within our city was also unexpected – we had no idea that there was such a response within the community or at a national level. The impact of the war locally was interesting; for example food rationing and also how Zeppelin raids caused a great sense of unease and fear within local people.

We had expected that most of the men serving from our area would be with a local regiment - The Sherwood Foresters - but in fact we found that there was a broad range of service within the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force, and we identified that people served in many different war zones.

6) What tips or advice would you want to give future commemorative projects?   

  • Identify roles for volunteers ahead of your project and get advice from your local archivist or local history librarian – they are useful people to have on your side.
  • You do not need a permanent exhibition space to showcase your research – pop-up exhibitions as part of other community events work really well and provide a ready audience.

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The 'Peace Field Project', National Children's Football Alliance.
The 'Peace Field Project', National Children's Football Alliance.

Our second Case Study represents two projects – ‘Football and Peace’ and the ‘Peace Fields Project’, organised by the National Children’s Football Alliance CIC.

1) What motivated you to contribute to Mapping the Centenary?  

Our projects originated from a cathartic moment I had when visiting the sites of the 1914 Christmas Truces in Mesen, Belgium. In connecting my own childhood experiences with the space, time and place of December 1914, we wanted to show the role sport can play in bringing nations together – and now feels like an important time to record the legacy of our work.

2) How would you describe your commemorative project or activity in five words? 

Peace Makers for the Future.

3) Why did you decide to pursue this project?  

It was important that young people connect with young people from the First World War, and that young people were given the opportunity to contextualise their experiences with the First World War – particularly to question the history of the conflict. Ultimately, it was important that they discovered that the First World War was not a white Euro-centric war. 

4) What went particularly well? Was there anything that did not go as expected or that surprised you? 

What went well: The ‘Peace Field Project’ brought together diverse communities, different cultures, mixed gender and mixed abilities. The project left a tangible legacy through the twinning of designated areas of play with Flanders Peace Field.

Unfortunately, we encountered a lack of inter-generational opportunities that were either overlooked, or what felt like a conflict of interests, with the work of a number of established proprietary organisations.

5) Did your involvement change your understanding of the First World War, and if so, in what way?  

Absolutely, yes. We were fortunate to have worked closely with international partners at the Mesen Peace Village. The ‘Peace Field Project’ continues to twin designated areas of play with Flanders with countries around the world - there are now thirty five Peace Pitches in five different continents. Many of the projects also brought to light the indigenous cultures that fought for the ‘King’s Shilling’, which is best described as an ‘eye-opening’ experience.

6) What tips or advice would you want to give future commemorative projects?   

‘All Inclusive’ is the key. Reach out to communities. Do not ignore the ‘Now’ in juxtaposition with the ‘Then’. And most importantly, grant people access to a history that they have the right to be educated about and the space that they should ask questions.

Our thanks to these two project representatives for their generous insight.

If reading this has inspired you to submit a listing for your own First World War commemorative project, please visit the ‘Add Your Project’ section on ‘Mapping the Centenary’.