Behind The Scenes, 6 November 2019: Working with war and conflict
by Jo Clarke, Marketing and Communications Officer
This Saturday marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was an event that reshaped Europe and I can remember watching the emotional scenes on the television as they unfolded.
Then, on Sunday, remembrance services will be held around the country, as people come together to honour all those who’ve served and given their lives.
It’s a weekend when reminders of war and conflict will be on many peoples’ minds and in the news.
With strong military connections and having been so shaped by the impact of the Blitz, the topics of war and conflict are never too far away in a place like Plymouth. They’ve also been frequent subjects during the last 12 years while I’ve been working for the Museum and Art Gallery (and now The Box).
We did a lot of different things to mark it – running talks and guided walks, developing exhibitions and public art commissions, and working with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission when the ‘Poppies: Wave’ was displayed on the Hoe’s Naval War Memorial.
We also unveiled four commemorative slabs dedicated to Plymouth and Devonport-born soldiers who’d received the Victoria Cross for their courage. You can see them on the corner of Citadel Road and Osborne Place on the Hoe. One of the unveiling ceremonies was even attended by a ram called Private Derby!
Throughout this period we were part of a ‘Centenary Partnership’ led by Imperial War Museums (IWM). When the centenary came to an end IWM wanted to create a legacy. They secured funding from Arts Council England and the Art Fund to establish a new Subject Specialist Network (SSN) focusing on war and conflict. I was really flattered, off the back of the work we’d done for the First World War centenary, to be asked to sit on the Steering Group.
The SSN has held two steering group and network meetings this year as well as a successful study day about the Cold War. It already has over 300 members. They come from across the UK as well as America, Australia and Japan and range from individuals to large organisations. The aim of the SSN is to create a forum where everyone can share information, knowledge and expertise.
Attending the SSN meetings has enabled me to meet and hear from people who are doing great and really varied work around some extremely difficult subjects. It’s also provided me with guidance and resources that I can use in my own work, and reminded me of some important anniversaries that are coming up over the next couple of years.
2020 will mark 75 years since Victory in Europe (VE Day) and Victory in Japan (VJ Day) as well as 80 years since the Battle of Britain. 2021 will mark the 80th anniversary of the Blitz in Plymouth and, unbelievably, 20 years since 9/11.
If you have any memories of the Berlin Wall you’d like to share this coming weekend you can join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #VoicesOfTheWall.