Trench Model looking for a loving home

A trench model, painstakingly constructed by the Bedford U3A Miniatures Group, is looking for a museum or similar establishment to offer it a loving new home.

In November last year, I was lucky enough to be asked to go and speak about the Remembrance Image Project to some 200 or so members of the Bedford U3A (University of the Third Age) group. I knew I was speaking to a knowledgeable audience, as I had already heard about the amazing trench model that had been built by some of the members. I was fortunate enough to meet a few of them and chat with them after my talk.

The model has been widely exhibited in a number of different locations in the Bedfordshire area, and is now looking for a permanent home where it can remain on public view.

The model measures 6ft x 2ft, and is built to approx. 1/12 scale. Everything, from the landscape itself to the war materiel and the individual figures was made by hand, with a meticulous attention to detail. The landscape was based on the Flanders plains around Ypres, where some of the Bedfordshire Regiment served between 1914 and 1918.

The group looked to documentary and photographic evidence from the time in order to ensure that their model was as accurate as possible. They took the deliberate decision not to base their trench scene in any particular year, to enable them to show elements from early in the conflict, as well as later developments. In addition to numerous individual soldiers, the scene shows a field kitchen, a mine tunnel entrance, artillery…and even a latrine! The photos above, kindly supplied by the modellers themselves, give some idea of the details.

In all, the model took some nine months to construct. The group are now looking for a permanent home for it. Although they are not looking for any money for the model, they would like to be assured that it will be in a good home where it can be on public view for many years to come.

If you know of a museum or other institution which would be interested in acquiring the model, then please contact me and I can put you in touch with the model-makers.



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Project with Kingsway Junior School

In November of last year, I was privileged to be asked to help Year 5 students at Kingsway Junior School begin a piece of project work on the First World War. I spent half a day with them on 10 November, just before Armistice Day, and then they continued to work on the project with their teachers for the remainder of the term.

On 10 November, we began the morning with a whole-school assembly, in which we spent 15 minutes or so talking about the poppy, and how it came to be a symbol of remembrance. Then I spent the rest of the morning working with the Year 5 students in two groups, talking about the history of the war, and about remembrance, in more detail. We explored what they thought about the idea of remembrance, and who they wanted to remember the following day in the two-minute silence. We discussed the different backgrounds and nationalities of people who fought between 1914 and 1918, and a little bit about the conditions in which they fought.

The children then looked at a selection of images from the Remembrance Image Project showing WW1 sites as they look today. In small groups they talked about what the pictures showed, and decided which one they would choose as an image of remembrance.

At the close of the session, we introduced the idea of a WW1 poster, which they were going to develop with their teachers during the rest of the term. In the following weeks they studied subjects as diverse as trench life; war poetry; letters to and from the Front; war art; injuries, diseases and medical care; and songs of wartime.

Just before Christmas they sent me the fantastic posters which they had been working on over the weeks since I had last seen them [see below]. It’s inspiring to see just how creative and enthusiastic these nine- and ten-year-old students were, and the number of different aspects of WW1 life which they had engaged with in just half a term. I am most grateful to Kingsway School and all the staff for making me so welcome, and for allowing me to be a small part of their project work.

Mrs Robinson, one of the Year 5 teachers, said, “Simon was an inspiration to our children! He captured their imaginations at the beginning of the term, filling them with enthusiasm to investigate World War One and the idea of remembrance. I would highly recommend working with him.”

If you are a school teacher and would be interested in working with the Remembrance Image Project on some work with your students – of any age – then please just get in contact with the project.

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Exhibition at St Clement Danes Church, London

I am delighted to say that my exhibition in the crypt of St Clement Danes Church, Strand, London is now open, and running until 17th November 2014.  The exhibition shows a number of new images not previously displayed at exhibitions earlier in the year.  The church is open from 9am-4pm daily, subject to service times etc.

Poster for St Clement Danes exhibition

A second exhibition, which has been running at the Guildhall Library since August, continues until 12th November 2014.

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Two exhibitions: City of London and Harrow

A single poppy at Thiepval memorial

A single poppy at Thiepval memorial

I am excited that I have not just one, but two exhibitions to tell you about, both running over the next few weeks.

The first is the Guildhall Library exhibition in the City of London which I posted some information about earlier in the summer.  The exhibition is open during normal library opening hours, and runs until 12 November 2014.  It contains around 25 of my photographs, and more information can be found on the Guildhall Library’s website.

The second exhibition opens at Harrow Arts Centre on Thursday 18 September, and runs through until Friday 10th October.  Again, it contains around 20 images from the project, many of them being exhibited for the first time.  I shall be running a seminar alongside this exhibition on 2 October – people are invited to bring along and talk about their own WW1 artefacts in the first part of the seminar, after which I will share some more images from the project, and the stories behind them.

The good news is that both exhibitions are free to view, so if you get the chance to drop by please do let me know what you think.  Prints from both exhibitions are available for sale, so just contact me if you would like any more information.

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Brockwell Park, London – a commemorative event

This gallery contains 9 photos.

This Monday just gone, 28th July, marked of course the one hundredth anniversary of the declaration of war by Austria-Hungary on Serbia, the first of that series of such declarations in late July and early August which led into WW1. … Continue reading

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Project update: Photography workshops

The summer months look set to be a busy period for the project.  The Guildhall, London exhibition of images, accompanied by an afternoon lecture on the project, both take place in early August.  The exhibition is free and accessible during normal library opening hours; the lecture is also free, but booking is essential.

August is also going to be busy with a variety of trips to France and Belgium, including to the little village of Joncherey down on the Swiss border, where the first casualties of the western front were killed.  I’ll try to keep the website and social media feeds updated with pictures from these trips.

In September, I am running two photography workshops – although neither are explicitly about the First World War, we will be looking at how photographs tell stories and how they can be used to help bring historical subjects alive.

The first workshop is a one-day event at the Guildhall Library in London, and is designed to supplement the exhibition.  It takes place on Wednesday 3rd September from 10am-4.30pm, and costs £50.  Booking is essential, and you can reserve a place online.

The second is a multi-day residential course on “Telling Stories in Photographs“, and is being held at Denman, the Women’s Institute College near Abingdon from 25th-28th September.  It’s open to non-members of the WI, and also to men (so no excuse for not coming along, chaps!).  Denman is a stunning country house set in acres of beautiful grounds, so we have plenty to exploit as photographic subjects.  And if that’s not enough, then there is also a day trip to London as part of the course, to make use of the city as a historic subject for our photos.  Having just returned from three days’ teaching at Denman, I can also vouch for the quality (and quantity!) of food – the price includes accommodation and all meals!

If you have any queries about these events, then please do not hesitate to contact me. And of course, if you would like to book a Remembrance Image Project talk, workshop or seminar for a school or community group, then again please just let me know.

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Project update and upcoming exhibitions/events: Summer 2014

Memorial wall at Tyne Cot

Memorial wall at Tyne Cot

I am writing at the start of what looks set to be a busy few months for the project.  Just yesterday, I was lucky enough to give the post-AGM talk for the Friends of the National Archives at Kew, and my presentation was followed up by some really interesting one-to-one discussions with the folk who attended.  This marks the beginning of a period of several talks and workshops for groups including the Women’s Institute, University of the Third Age, libraries, and community groups.  I am continuing to take bookings for these and for school groups, so as ever please do not hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to chat about organising a presentation, seminar or workshop.

I have a series of public events coming up over the summer at the Guildhall Library in the City of London.  There will be an exhibition of photographs from the research stages of the project in the library from 4 August until 12 November 2014.  To coincide with that, I will be giving a talk about the project at the library on 6 August 2014 at 2pm; tickets are free, but spaces are limited so it is essential to make a reservation online.  I will also be running a day-long “Introduction to digital SLR photography” as a supplement to the exhibition in early September – details to follow.

In August, of course, the “research phase” of the project finishes, and the main phase of project work starts in earnest.  I have an interesting programme of visits to France and Belgium at two or three points during the rest of the year, from which I shall be sharing photographs at the Remembrance Image Project exhibition at St Clement Danes, the RAF Church in the Strand, London, during early November 2014.  Again, further details will follow a bit nearer the time.

Keep in touch – and please keep sharing your own pictures with the project too!


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Sharing pictures, sharing reflections

A key aim of the Remembrance Image Project is to encourage others to share their own pictures of WW1 sites, so that the work becomes not just my own images, but a dialogue in pictures between a variety of people visiting and reflecting on places associated with the conflict.

It’s one of the points I always stress when I am speaking publicly about the project, and I did so again at a recent talk I have to the Bedford County Women’s Institute. And as if to reassure me that this approach does work, a few weeks later I was contacted by Valerie Mullins.

In fact, Valerie was not at the Bedford WI meeting, but a friend and fellow photographer was and mentioned the project to Valerie. As it happens, Valerie had recently returned from a visit to the battlefields organised by Leger, and she kindly took the time to contact me and share some of her pictures. With her permission, I am reproducing some of them here.

Valerie explained to me that she had always wanted to visit the battlefields, and found her trip both informative and thought-provoking. The fact that it coincided with the centenary meant that it held an additional layer of meaning. The pictures which she was most satisfied with were the ones of the German cemeteries; as she modestly told me, “I am not a great photographer, but the images of the German cemeteries I will remember for the rest of my life”.

My thanks to Valerie for taking the time to contact me and share both her impressions of the battlefields, and some of her photographs.

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Project update Mar 2014

Arch at Thiepval

Lutyens’ memorial arch at Thiepval, from my recent Somme trip

The opening months of 2014 have been a busy period for project work.  The programme of talks and interactive workshops is taking shape for the year; even before the month of January was out, I’d given a talk at a Hertfordshire camera club, and taken part in an interactive workshop with 200 or so Year 9 school students.  These were the first in  a series of similar events planned throughout this year, and indeed over the next several years – so if you are interested in a talk or workshop for a group you are connected with, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

I have just completed the first public exhibition of project images this year, at Clapham Library in south London.  Two further exhibitions are planned, at the Guildhall Library in the City of London between August and November; and at St Clement Danes (the RAF church) in the Strand from 4-16 November.  I shall also be giving a public talk about the project at the Guildhall Library at 2pm on Wednesday 6th August. 

More generally, I am continuing to visit sites both in the UK and abroad to build up a portfolio of images.  I was on the Somme last weekend, with some fairly dramatic weather as a backdrop; closer to home I have also been discovering and photographing some of the London war memorials.  And later in the year I have trips planned to Ypres, Mons and the southern sections of the Western Front.  All of these images will start to figure in the daily Twitter and Facebook posts.

Please do keep in touch; and as ever, if you have any of your own images to share, please feel free to tweet, facebook or email!

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Public talk about the Remembrance Image Project

As part of the programme of talks, workshops and seminars about the Remembrance Image Project, I am delighted to announce a public talk to be held in London on 20 November 2013.

The event is kindly hosted by the Friends of South Lambeth Library, and will take place at the library at 7pm on 20 November, with doors opening at 6.30pm.  The library is at 108 South Lambeth Road, London, SW8 1QP.  Admission is free. More information is available on the Friends’ website.

During the evening I will share some of the photographs I have created during the research phase of the project, and the stories behind them.  There will be an opportunity for questions, debate and discussion; and of course for people to explore how they might get involved in the project themselves!

Meantime, I am continuing to put together a programme of talks to all kinds of school and community groups in 2014 and beyond, so please do contact me if you know of a group that might be interested in their own presentation.

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