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Tees Valley commemorates the Great War

Touching tales of the horror, heroism and human spirit evoked by the First World War will be brought to life through a series of events, exhibitions and outreach projects in the Tees Valley.

With grant support from the Arts Council England, the five local councils are putting together a £400,000 ‘Remembering Our War’ initiative to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the conflict, which began on July 28th 1914.

The project aims to tell the story of the First World War and its impact on the Tees Valley, where Hartlepool became the only UK battlefield during a bombardment on December 16th 1914.

The programme, which runs until March 2015, includes:

  • Activities in local museums to help people discover the amazing artefacts on show and get involved through hands-on workshops, research and on-line.

  • Formal and informal learning opportunities for schools and youth groups, including loans boxes and opportunities to visit the Heugh Gun Battery Museum in Hartlepool - the only First World War battlefield in the UK.

  • An exhibition that will tour all five boroughs and a special exhibition about the bombardment of the Hartlepools, which will be on display at the Museum of Hartlepool from September 2014 – January 2015.

  • Outreach activities, which will offer a unique way to engage people in learning about the First World War and its impact on lives today.  People will also be encouraged to share family stories relating to the social and military aspects of the war.

  • Large scale outdoor theatricalperformances will take place in each one of the boroughs culminating on December 16th 2014 in Hartlepool, the 100th anniversary of the bombardment.

In addition, as the programme gets fully underway in the spring, a web site will be created for people to find out more and post photographs, memorabilia and stories of their family’s involvement in the war.  They will also be able to get involved through Facebook and Twitter.

The initiative is a partnership between Darlington, Stockton, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland and Hartlepool Borough Councils, together with the Heugh Gun Battery in Hartlepool.

Said Stephen Akers-Belcher, Mayor of Hartlepool :  “Although there is no-one left alive who fought in the war there are people who will remember the conflict and how it affected their lives – particularly in Hartlepool where 182 people were killed and over 200 injured when the town was shelled by German gunboats.

“The years that followed brought great change and shaped the lives of thousands of people living in the area.  On this 100th anniversary, we want to engage with today’s community to truly understand the legacy of the Great War in the Tees Valley.”

Highlights of the programme include a realistic replica of a First World War trench which will tour the Tees Valley and be used to bring to life stories about local heroes.  It is currently being constructed by The Time Bandits – a group providing historical interpretation and living history/drama.

Time Bandits will be touring shopping centres, libraries and community buildings to entertain and provide information about the initiative.

An exhibition – designed by JANVS Design - is scheduled to visit nine venues between June 4th this year and March 31st 2015. It will include stories about the impact of the First World War on the people and places of the Tees Valley, with supporting material from museum, library and archive collections.

Periplum – award winning outdoor performance specialists – have been commissioned to develop a spectacular show to be staged in each borough during the autumn.  It will use light, pyrotechnics and sound to tell the real life stories of local people involved in the war.  It is hoped community groups and individuals will also be able to take part in the interactive shows.

The full list of events currently lined up is as follows:

Time Bandits outreach team:

Darlington on Saturday February 22nd at  the Bridge Centre for the Arts, between 10am and noon; Crown Street Library between 1pm and 4pm and the central hall in the Dolphin Centre between 4.45 and 6.45pm.

Stockton on March 3rd at the Thornaby Central Library, between 9.30 and 4pm.  During the morning there will be school parties involved but there are also activities for the public.

Hartlepool on March 8th at the Marina Way Asda store, between 9am and noon; Middleton Grange Shopping Centre between 1.30pm and 4.30pm and the Grayfields Sports Pavilion between 6pm and 8pm.

In Redcar and Cleveland the exact timings and venues have yet to be determined but there will be sessions delivered in Redcar and in Guisborough.

Youth engagement:  More details of this element of the commemoration and tickets – where required – are available from Nichola McIntosh at nichola.mcintosh@hartlepool.gov.uk  tel: 01429 523762.

On February 27th at the Vue Cinema in Hartlepool, at 6.30pm, there will be a special screening of the multi-award winning film, War Horse, about a young soldier’s experiences on the battlefields. 

During International Women’s Day on March 8th there will be a suffragette themed arts, craft and performance workshop for 13 to 19-years-old at the Grand Hotel in Hartlepool.  Afterwards, at 12 noon, there will be a re-enactment of a suffragette march from the hotel to Victory Square.  Here the young people will perform to conclude an event designed to examine the role of women during the war.

A free Love Book Love Film event at the Town Hall Theatre, Hartlepool at 6.30pm will see the screening of a World War One film aimed at 13 to 19-year-olds.  Admission is free but bookings must be made.

June 16th will see the first Seeds of Change performance at the Town Hall Theatre in Hartlepool.  Open to those aged between 12 and 19, the production has been developed by young people involved in the young roots heritage lottery funded Seeds of Change project.   The time of this evening performance has yet to be confirmed. Other performances will be:

June 25th at Throston Youth Centre in Wiltshire Way, Hartlepool at 7pm

July 12th at the Hartlepool Headland Festival at a time yet to be confirmed

July 21st at Rossmere Youth Centre in Rossmere Way, Hartlepool at 7pm

August 9th at the Town Hall Theatre in Hartlepool at 7.30pm.  This show is open to anyone over the age of 10.

Touring exhibition:

The timetable so far confirmed is as follows:

  • Transporter Bridge Visitor Centre, Ferry Road, Middlesbrough, June 4th – 22nd

  • Rediscover Stockton Shop, 134b High Street, Stockton, June 24th – July 6th

  • Middlesbrough Central Library, Victoria Square, Middlesbrough, July 8th – 31st

  • Head of Steam, Darlington Railway Museum, Station Road, Darlington, August 5th – 31st

  • Kirkleatham Museum, Kirkleatham, Redcar, September 2nd – November 2nd

  • Hartlepool Central Library, 124 York Road, Hartlepool, November 4th until a date in December yet to be confirmed

  • Darlington Central Library, Crown Street, Darlington from a January date yet to be set until February 26th

  • Thornaby Central Library, Wrightson House, Pavilion Shopping Centre, Thornaby, Stockton-on-Tees, February 28th – March 31st 2015. 

Subject to grant funding it will also visit the Yarm 1914 Commemoration Group event at Willey Flatts Field, Yarm, on August 2nd and 3rd 2014.

Outdoor spectacular show:

Finally the dates and venues for this attraction are as follows.  Times will be announced nearer the performances:

  • Preston Hall Museum, Stockton, Saturday September 27th

  • Kirkleatham Hall Museum, Saturday October 18th

  • Albert Park, Middlesbrough, Saturday November 1st

  • Market Square, Darlington, Friday November 19th

  • Headland Town Square, Harlepool, Tuesday December 16th

For more information on the World War One project contact: David Worthington, Head of Culture and Information, Hartlepool Borough Council telephone 01429 523491 email david.worthington@hartlepool.gov.uk