Royal & Derngate remembers the Great War

Royal & Derngate remembers the Great War

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Young Reporter Laura Jayne Bateman reports on a family day organised by Royal & Derngate and Northampton Museum and Art Gallery to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. 

Amidst bright sunshine on Saturday 30 August, Royal & Derngate theatre and the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery hosted a day of activities to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. The open day was part of the Borough Council’s commemorative project entitled Conflict and Community, intended to increase awareness of the events of the Great War amongst Northampton’s residents. Actors roamed the theatre and museum dressed in period costume, guiding members of the public to the many fascinating exhibits.

These included a variety of informative stalls set up in the theatre’s foyer, including Northampton Heritage Hunters and Northampton Family History Society, which explained how one could trace relatives who fought in the war. There was an exhibit of First World War weaponry from the Western Front Association, and an exhibition entitled A Shoemaker Goes to War in the museum, which explained the vital role that Northampton’s shoe industry played in supporting British troops.

In the Guildhall Courtyard, attendees were treated to performances from the Grafton Scouts’ Marching Youth Band, Royal & Derngate’s Community Choir and dancers from the Black Swan Dance School. The dancers, led by Kamila Domanska, also ran workshops throughout the day, teaching period-appropriate ballroom and Latin routines to members of the public.

In addition to learning Edwardian dances, attendees could also have their hair styled in the Edwardian Fashion Boutique. The hairdressers were employees of Royal & Derngate, and are currently working on the theatre’s in-house production of Regeneration, an adaption of Pat Barker’s acclaimed novel that follows shell-shocked infantry officers, including celebrated war poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, during their time at Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh in 1917. 

One of the helpers in the Fashion Boutique was 16-year-old Grace Pearson, a Youth Curator at the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery, who volunteered in order to “contribute something to the community”.

This sentiment was shared by 69-year-old John E Page, who attended the open day to promote his book Forever Remembered: Our Fallen Heroes of World War One. The book, “a personal, not-for-profit venture”, commemorates the forty fallen soldiers of Wootton village in Northamptonshire, and Mr Page hopes that the proceeds will allow the village’s war memorial to be renovated. When asked about the importance of the open day, Mr Page said: “It is imperative to educate all members of our community, young and old, about the sacrifice that ten million servicemen made for their respective countries one hundred years ago”. For more information about Mr Page’s book, please telephone 01604 766 162.

“It is imperative to educate all members of our community, young and old, about the sacrifice that ten million servicemen made for their respective countries one hundred years ago”
Northampton Resident, John E Page

Artist Jamie Norton Poole was also in attendance and hopes that his artwork will aid in educating the public about this sacrifice. Inspired by Michael Morpurgo’s best-selling novel War Horse, now an Oscar-nominated film and an Olivier Award-winning play, Mr Poole created the image of a horse trapped in No Man’s Land using only extracts of war poetry and black, white and grey paints. Mr Poole primarily used the words of First World War poets, but also included lines from modern war poems, such as those concerning Iraq and the Gulf, to commemorate the suffering of all soldiers in the last century. Mr Poole asked attendees to create a similar work of art on a large cardboard cut-out of a horse with their own words of poetry, and the magnificent finished product demonstrates the extent of the respect of Northampton’s residents for the fallen of the Great War.

The day concluded with Edwardian games in front of the Errol Flynn Filmhouse and a tea party in the theatre’s Wicked Way CafĂ©. The theatre’s press manager, Amanda Howson, was pleased with the level of interest that had been shown in the event, commenting that “all day, we have had a steady stream of members of the public visiting the stalls and exhibits”. The success of the event displays the commitment of the community to remembering the casualties of the Great War, a commitment which is sure only to increase between now and November 2018.

Laura Jayne Bateman is our Young Reporter at the Royal & Derngate in Northampton. The Royal & Derngate is the co-producer of Regeneration which is playing at the theatre from 29 August to 20 September 2014. 

Regeneration premiered on 2 September 2014 (previews from 29 August) at Royal & Derngate, Northampton, where it continues until 20 September 2014. It then tours to York, Edinburgh, Bradford, Nottingham, Cheltenham, Richmond, Wolverhampton, Darlington and Blackpool where it concludes on 29 November.