I was commissioned by The Westbury Arts Centre in Milton Keynes to develop an installation for a performance marking the centenary anniversary of the beginning of the First World War. The brief was to work with the local community to create a series of textile banners representing an aspect of the war, or a personal story from an individual’s family history. These banners would provide the backdrop for a dance choreographed and performed by Helen Parlour, Chris Bradley and Effie Maguire-Ward of the MOTUS Dance Company and around 100 dancers.
Ten months later, For the Fallen a thought-provoking performance of Remembrance was performed at The Rose, Campbell Park Milton Keynes, on the 5th of July to an estimated audience of at least 1500.
The banners were then exhibited at Westbury Arts Centre July 2015. The banners were inspired by makers family stories of the Great War, culminating in a beautiful act of commemoration.
Communities have long since come together to sew and record both social and political ideals and events. From the horror of the trenches during wartime, soldiers stitched poignant love hearts to send to their loved ones at home. With this in mind, coming together to create textile artworks felt like a highly appropriate way to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the beginning of World War One.
Over the duration of the project I worked with Primary and Secondary Schools, Colleges, Art for Health groups, a local sewing group, and artists from the Milton Keynes area. In total, we created a collection of 350 banners using donated and upcycled materials. Across the body of work, conflict and communication are strong themes.
Primary school pupils created poppy banners, dedicated to men and women of Milton Keynes who served in WW1. Secondary Schools created Dadaist-inspired banners on sandbags. Other groups chose to tell their own stories using family images, letters and poems as inspiration, whilst some explored the theme of communication through messages sent from trenches using semaphore or Morse code. A striking group of banners inspired by semaphore flags spells out messages of remembrance and peace.
“I have been privileged to hear stories from the contributors to this project about their brave ancestors, and personal reflections on the events of World War One. Working collaboratively with a diverse community has been immensely rewarding, and inspired me to reconnect with my own family history, leading to personal discoveries about my own grandfather’s involvements in the war.”
The banners will provide the backdrop for the performance of a dance entitled For the Fallen, performed and choreographed by talented dancers Chris Bradley, Effie Maguire-Ward and Helen Parlour, of the MOTUS Dance Company.