The project made particular connections with Cobden Primary School and with Loughborough High School including the history and drama students. The aim was to encourage the students to develop an appreciation of the complexities, contradictions and challenges facing the decision makers and ordinary people at the time on a social, military and political level. The project team supported social history research that led to a curated exhibition and contribution to the book ‘For the Fallen’ and delivered interactive workshops enhanced by handling artefacts, WW1 songs and a giant floor map. The young people became conversant with processes pertaining to historical research and the resources available to them. By the end of activities they were familiar with on and offline archives, collections, old media, family histories, community narratives and had conducted independent research with primary sources like documents, letters, photographs, articles and records as well as accessing information held widely within ‘local knowledge.’
During 2015 a group of Loughborough High School Archive Prefects began to explore the school records which stem back to its origins in the nineteenth century. They focussed on the Edwardian era discovering aspects of the town, what life was like for a girl at that time and the stories of particular past pupils. Their research served to enlighten their perception of the era leading them to create a display for ‘Open Day.’ Their investigations had unearthed the school’s support to the war effort including raising money at an Old Girls’ dance for the Belgian Relief Fund in 1914. The girls’ work substantially contributed to a community exhibition at Charnwood Museum in 2015 which they visited together.
The project sought to engage young people in experiences to ground their understanding including debates, visits, creative re-enactment, engagement with performance events, devising interpretative theatre based on historical accounts and creative writing. The work was co-ordinated and guided by experienced practitioners with ample opportunities for them to reach their own conclusions and to express their perspectives on the period. A key example was when eight pupils from Cobden Primary School joined the Imperial War Museum visit along with adult researchers from associations like Loughborough Library Local Studies group, the Carillon Memorial Tower and the Western Front Association. On returning to school they gave feedback on what they had discovered to their classmates. Later ‘Old Billy’ and members of Tommy Atkin’s Band returned to the school to deliver two high impact workshops with handling items that engaged Year 8 classes in the WW1 narrative, what it meant to Loughborough at the time and the impact of the war today.