Today is International Conscientious Objectors Day
A party of British troops with guns and shovels at Fleurbaix.
I’ve been sent a very interesting press release from the Imperial War Museum in London that I want to share with you.
Until I read it I didn’t realise that International Conscientious Objectors’ Day was celebrated every 15 May. I don’t know when it started but this year is different because it is the centenary of the outbreak of WWI and there will be a number of events to remember the role of peace and conscientious objection.
At noon on Thursday 15 May 2014 in Tavistock Square, London the Quakers in Britain will remember WWI conscientious objectors in a dedicated ceremony. Over 50 descendants will honour their relatives in an exhibition at nearby Friends House. Objects on display include diaries and bullets transformed into cutlery which belonged to conscientious objectors during imprisonment.
From 7.30pm on 15 May the No Glory campaign will hold an evening of music and poetry at St Giles-in-the-Fields Church by Tottenham Court Road where Scottish author and writer A L Kennedy, poet and author Blake Morrison, children’s novelist Michael Rosen, Hungarian-born British poet George Szirtes actor and director Samuel West will perform readings.
As part of the LIFT Festival at Battersea Arts Centre two projects from After A War (27 – 29 June) will look at the role of conscientious objectors. Artist Tim Etchells (27-29 June) will create a series of neon signs drawing attention to the Harwich 17 – a group of objectors who were imprisoned in May 1916 and sent to France.
The University of Hertfordshire’s project The Staging World War I will put on two plays in the summer including ‘Conscientious Objector or Coward? : Staging the Life of Arthur Waterman’, to be performed (17 July) in London’s Bloomsbury.
In July The Imperial War Museum London will open new First World War Galleries that include object that highlight what it meant to be a conscientious objector during WWI. Objects include the Holy Bible of William Harrison who was sentenced to hard labour by a court martial as well as a letter sent by an employer rejecting someone for a job because of their objection to the war.
The People’s History Museum in Manchester have created special living history performances looking at life during the First World War from the perspective of two brothers Dougie and Arthur; one a soldier, and the other a conscientious objector.
During Brighton’s Fringe Festival (3 May – 1 June) Music of Our Time (MOOT) will highlight the work of composer Frank Bridge a pacifist during the First World War (born in Brighton, February 1879) and tutor to Benjamin Britton. Twenty of his compositions will be performed including Lament for Catherine, written in memory of a nine-year old girl who was killed on the Lusitania in1915.
The Peace Museum in Bradford is now running a series of workshops titled Choices Then and Now – WWI and the War on Terror (until 22nd December 2018). The workshops, aimed at young people, look at the First World War alongside recent and current conflicts to consider the choices available to and made by people in response to key events.
Kingston Museum will mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War with an exhibition (May – August). Alongside the display a series of free talks will include For Kingston and Country? Conscientious Objection and Anti-War Activity (June 10).
Isle of Man
‘This Terrible Ordeal’ an exhibition at the Manx Museum on the Isle of Man tells the story of Harold Lilley an objector who grew up in Castletown, and was one of only two men on the island who were Absolutists. (Until Jan 2015)
You can find more information about conscientious objectors during WWI at www.iwm.org.uk/history/conscientious-objectors-in-their-own-words