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The involvement of minorities during WW1 – a new project

A report by Stockport Heritage Trust committee member Robert Bridges, on a meeting held on 8th December 2014 at the University of Chester.

At the last committee meeting, I mentioned my intention to take up an invitation to attend a meeting at Chester University about capturing information relating to the involvement of minorities during WW1.  Jill Trumble expressed an interest, so the two of us attended.  The meeting was hosted by Dr. Jessica van Horssen from the Department of History & Archaeology.  A couple of other senior University figures were also in attendance.

Other groups and individuals from around Cheshire are involved with this project:

– Peace Strategy Group of East Cheshire Quakers
– Northwich and District Heritage Society
– Friends of Handforth Railway Station
– Cheshire Local History Association
– Burton and Neston Local History Society
– Macclesfield WW1 Centenary Committee
– Family History Society of Cheshire
– Big Heritage

The project kicked off early summer, and this was the second meeting.  A member from each group in attendance gave a brief verbal presentation as to any relevant activity that they/their group is involved with.  As an example, a guy from the Northwich group has produced three publications: WW1 memorials around Northwich, WW1 fallen of Northwich, and I can’t remember the third!  Another group has been researching folk from Belgium that were over here at the time of the war.  A rep from the Quakers has done extensive research into conscientious objectors (C.O.’s), and has helped compile a list of all C.O.’s who were registered as such during the war.

Jill gave a summary of the status of her ‘WW1 memorials in St. Mary’s‘ project, which was well received.  I informed people of our very successful ‘Stockport’s WW1 Experience‘ event held in September, and also our willingness to liaise with any local minority group, or at least pass on relevant information to the project leadership.  I made a point of not raising expectations too high, as any input derived from us will be dependent on the availability and enthusiasm (for WW1 related matters) of our group members, many of whom are already very involved with their own projects. 

Two guys were representing a group called ‘Big Heritage‘.  They commented that many Heritage groups around the country were mainly comprised of white, middle aged/retired, middle-class people.  They thought this didn’t encourage Joe Public (young people in particular) to get involved, or take an interest in what Heritage is about.  So in an attempt to redress this, they travel around creating ‘Pop-Up’ exhibitions (e.g. in shopping centres), and work with kids in an effort to bring history and local heritage into the community.  They have an interesting web-site at:  http://bigheritage.co.uk/

We were encouraged to initiate research into producing “diverse narratives of WW1”.  This could be, for example, looking at the role of Stockport’s Jewish community during WW1, or, I believe there were four people of Chinese descent living in Stockport at the time… did they have any out of the ordinary experiences or stories to tell?

By “minority,” we simply mean anyone who does not fit the traditional stories or narratives, whether this means via ethnic, national, religious, ideological, or a number of other differences.

A web-site has been created by the University to post contributions on, making them accessible to all:  http://diversenarratives.com/

Dr. Horssen mentioned that grants may be available via several routes, e.g. Heritage lottery fund, parish councillor funds etc.  The University is in the process of compiling an information pack on how best to apply for funding.
Now that Christmas and New Year are over with (for most of us), could you please consider getting involved with what I think is a project with lots of potential.  It also offers an opportunity for us to get involved with other like-minded people and groups, and swap notes on successful ways to promote our local heritage, etc.  It is planned to hold monthly workshops, the first of which will be held in January to discuss grant application writing.

We can discuss the project in more detail at our next committee meeting.

Best regards,

rob bridges

Useful links:

Imperial War Museum’s website for searching War Memorials in the UK, which can be found here: http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/search?utm_source=ukniwm&utm_medium=rw&utm_campaign=wmalaunch&from=/server/show/nav.002006. 

Heritage Lottery Fund: http://www.hlf.org.uk/looking-funding/our-grant-programmes/first-world-war-then-and-now

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