Great War Dundee is a partnership of local cultural, educational and commercial organisations formed to commemorate the First World War and its impact on Dundee. The project was recently awarded the Stephen Fry Award for Excellence in Public Engagement with Research 2016, in recognition of its outstanding achievements in improving awareness and understanding of the war’s impact on Dundee among a wider audience. Read our guest blog from the project to learn more about the important work being done to raise awareness of Dundee’s war effort.
Dundee gave an astonishing 63% of its eligible men to the armed forces leaving barely a street, house or tenement in the city unaffected. In 2013, with the centenary fast approaching and believing in the power of a co-ordinated approach, the Great War Dundee partnership project was formed. To raise awareness of Dundee’s role in WWI, we successfully applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund and have implemented a wide programme of events, activities, and projects.
Since July 2014, 100 years since the start of WW1, we have been actively involving and engaging the local community in a number of ways including free talks across the city, information packs based on Dundee and the Home Front given out to schools; CPD sessions for teachers and the creation of a new content driven website. However, two projects have remained at the heart of the project – the centenary of the Battle of Loos, and the creation of a searchable online Roll of Honour.
Dundee suffered devastating losses at the Battle of Loos; 19 of 20 officers died and the 4th Black Watch battalion, known locally as Dundee’s Own, was all but decimated. Initially, Great War Dundee planned to hold a Loos centenary event for a local audience, however working alongside the Lord Provost’s office, we successfully petitioned the Scottish Government to assist with funding to hold the national commemorations in Dundee. Thanks to this funding we were able to think bigger and our event became one of national significance.
Creative director, Debra Salem, delivered a wonderful programme featuring RSNO, Dundee Symphony Orchestra, Scottish bands and a number of singers and musicians. Speakers including TV personality Lorraine Kelly, author James Robertson, BBC presenter Jamie MacDougall, and Game of Thrones star, Daniel Portman also got involved during the weekend’s events. Material including letters from the trenches, newspaper articles, and poetry by local war poet, Joseph Lee, was set to music and performed by Scottish folk band Dallahan, with orchestral accompaniment. Audience members came from across the country for this poignant and fitting tribute. We also commissioned leading silent film accompanist, Stephen Horne, to compose and perform a score for the screening of The Guns of Loos, a silent film not seen in Scotland since the 1930s.
The work didn’t stop there. We wanted to create a searchable online Roll of Honour; one that was unlike traditional honour rolls which typically only list those who fell. We wanted to create an honour including those who fell, returned, and experienced WWI on the Home Front. A very ambitious undertaking. Through our own research and by appealing to the public, we have expanded numerous entries with more information, photographs, and historical material. This Roll of Honour was launched in November 2015 and the response has been overwhelming – we’ve had to recruit several volunteers to keep up!
All of this was made even more worthwhile last month, when the Project was awarded the Stephen Fry Award for Excellence in Public Engagement with Research 2016, with Stephen Fry himself congratulating the project group in a recording played at the awards ceremony.
Work on the Roll of Honour is ongoing and our current grant soon comes to an end but, until then we are curating a travelling pop up exhibition, creating a time capsule with local schools, holding an event based on a 1916 field cookbook, and programming our Somme centenary events. And applying for funding to take us to the end of the centenary!
For more information or to get involved with the partnership, please visit:
The Great War Dundee partners are Abertay Historical Society, Abertay University, Dundee City Archives, Dundee City Council, D.C. Thomson & Co Ltd, Dundee Heritage Trust, Friends of Dundee City Archives, Leisure and Culture Dundee, Stand Easy, The Black Watch Castle and Museum, The Unicorn Preservation Society, University of Dundee, and the Western Front Association (Tayside Branch).