Rediscovering history is an opportunity for activism and a driver for social change. Exploring the past and re-evaluating commemoration is an opportunity for reconciliation. Public History empowers communities in the present to determine the future.
Big Ideas programmes bring untold and marginalised stories into the light, whether that’s placing local stories on the national stage, or bringing to light marginalised strands of our shared history. Since we first developed community engagement in partnership with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission we discover the potential to activate a stronger connection to local heritage through the CWGC databases. This opportunity to discover local connections and immediate relevance to communities is a powerful driver for engagement which underpinned The CWGC Living Memory project, Passchendaele at Home, RAF100 and The Unremembered.
The significance of recovering the heritage of marginalised groups cannot be underestimated and the entire Unremembered project was driven by the lack of inclusion in established commemoration practice. The story of professional footballer Walter Tull, the first Black officer in the British Infantry amplifies our on-going work to champion inclusive commemoration.
Marking the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two in 2020, we were honoured to work with WWII veterans through a series of intergenerational films with Premier League academy players. Alongside footballing legends such as Tommy Docherty and Bobby Brown, we shared the stories of completely unknown players whose wartime injuries had prevented them from resuming a football career. Arthur House’s interview with Southampton U14s is an unforgettable example of universal humanity. The Football Remembers WWII films were shared on Premier League platforms, shown on BBC News and Sport programmes and their websites and amplified by British government social media to reach mainstream audiences across the country.
All our work for the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation is directed by the British story of the Holocaust, summed up in “Our Story, Our Memorial”. From slave labour camps on Alderney during the Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands, to the families and hostels where Jewish children fleeing Nazi persecution in Europe were given shelter during the Kindertransport. The politicians and journalists who cared, and those who didn’t. There is a low awareness of the British story of the Holocaust, and the Foundation Stones programme increases understanding with communities across the UK.