As part of the VE commemorations for 2005, Swindon Borough Council?s Education Department was awarded ?6,000 by the Big Lottery Fund to run a primary schools project.
Mobile Media of Swindon?s Arts Services were drafted in to create a dynamic project bringing together war veterans with 100 Year 6 pupils from Windmill Hill, Freshbrook and Toothill Primary Schools in West Swindon.
‘Their Past Your Future’ reminiscence sessions involved veteran evacuees, a fireman and an air ambulance nurse all sharing their memories, memorabilia and photos with over 100 enthralled pupils.
Over the following weeks, the children worked alongside creative writer Sara-Jane Arbury to write poems, diaries, and letters, which went on to inspire some dramatic paintings with visual artist Laurie Plant, and digital art pieces with Dani Landau, all based on themes of war, reconciliation, and remembrance.
A specially commissioned film by local award winning filmmaker Gurchetan Singh weaves together the war-time reminiscences and the children?s creative response in a sensitive and moving piece.
This was screened on on Armistice Day, Friday 11 November alongside a selection of the original artworks and writing by the children which will make up a touring exhibition at a reception in the Mayor’s parlour at the Civic Offices, hosted by the Mayor of Swindon councillor Ray Fisher.
The day was also the Ray’s sixtieth birthday. (He is pictured with Alexander Dickins from Freshbrook Primary School, Deeann Chambers of Toothill primary and Timothy Rabbitts from Windmill Hill primary.)
Swindon?s Primary Schools Link Advisor, Sarah Foulkes said, “This project provided a unique opportunity for Swindon pupils to learn first hand about the war from veterans in their communities. We were impressed by the level of understanding the children have shown ? many of them said it was the first time they appreciated how much people had sacrificed in WWII.”
Mobile Media Director, Shahina Johnson said, “It was gratifying to see pupils engaging so sensitively with an older generation. The strength of an arts project like Their Past Your Future, is that it can bring history to life. By creating their own writing, visual and digital artworks on the subject, pupils have taken to the veteran?s stories, and their unique war experiences to heart, changing the way pupils think about life nowadays.”
The Mayor said, “This is a fantastic project which brings together young people in Swindon with an older generation in their community. Their Past Your Future is part of a national initiative to commemorate the 60th VE Anniversary, and Swindon should be proud to have contributed to a permanent archive with such an inspiring project. ”
Their Past Your Future exhibition will tour three public venues over the next three months: Civic Offices, Euclid Street, Swindon Arts Centre and West Swindon Library.
The children who took part in the project with Swindon veterans Millie Davies and Blanche Oakley, with the Mayor and Shahina Johnson and Marilyn Fitzgerald of the Mobile Media Projectt