We recently ran a workshop with members of the Asha Neighbourhood Project based on our Motherhood, Loss and the First World War project. The workshop was a chance for the participants to develop confidence in their communication skills, gain confidence in creativity and to explore the experiences of mothers during the First World War. The Asha Neighbourhood Project is a community group for women and families in Leeds which works to advance education, employment, health and wellbeing.
For this workshop, the women focused on letter exchanges taken from the archives between Private Edmund Goodchild who was on the frontline, and his mother in Suffolk. The women had a chance to read the letters to themselves and also aloud. Most of the women in the group were not native English speakers, and reading aloud provided an opportunity to practise English, while engaging with personal and historic stories taken from British history. The women engaged deeply with the letters, many stating that they found them moving and felt sympathy for the mother.
Following the readings, the group came together to respond creatively to the letters they had read. In the letters, Edmund requested his mother send him particular items from home. The women discussed what they would send to their sons and daughters if they were away at war and illustrated items they would send, including tins of beans, painkillers, gloves and scarves. They all depicted things that represented much needed comfort in a difficult time.
Motherhood, Loss and the First World War conference
Groups that take part in the project can attend the Motherhood, Loss and the First World War conference on 5 and 6 September 2018 at Senate House in London, which is organised in partnership with the London Centre for Public History and the Institute of Historical Research (IHR). During the conference, historians and community groups will come together to explore maternal bereavement and the impact of the war on mothers.
On 5 September, there will be a keynote speech by Susan R. Grayzel that will explore the varied voices of mourning British mothers during the First World War in order to uncover how they represented their national service and intensely personal sacrifice in their deepening engagement with public political debate. Book tickets to the keynote speech here.
On 6 September, a panel discussion will be held with community groups that have taken part in the project, discussing the impact of community commemoration projects. There will also be an evening of musical performance and readings exploring the experiences of mothers bereaved during the First World War. Book tickets to the evening performance here.
Community groups across the UK can apply for travel bursaries to attend the conference. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information and to apply. Funding is limited so we recommend applying early.