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'Voices and Choices' – Hexham Remembers

Wednesday 21st October 2015

Hexham is preparing for a two week Festival of Remembrance this November as part of the ongoing commemoration of “the war to end all wars” 100 years ago. A central part of the Festival will be the World War One 'Voices and Choices' exhibition, organised by Hexham Quakers.

Taking place for the full two weeks from 7th to 20th November, in the recently restored Prior’s Hall in Hexham Abbey, the exhibition will be opened by the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, at 1.45pm on Friday 6th November.


The exhibition draws on archives held in the three twinned towns of Hexham, Noyon in France and Metzingen in Germany.  It builds a picture of World War One through the stories of some of the individual men and women from those three communities.

The war left the three towns mourning many hundreds of deaths and suffering all manner of hardships.  One of the aims of the exhibition is to strengthen the bonds of friendship and understanding which now exist between them.

In World War One, soldiers and civilians from the three towns all faced challenging situations. This exhibition features some of their responses, often in their own words, and some of the choices which they made.

The exhibition asks, “What lessons can we take from 'The War To End All Wars'? Are we making progress towards finding less damaging ways in which to settle international differences?”  Visitors will be invited to share their thoughts.

The Festival will provide a number of other opportunities to explore these and other questions through a programme of related events, talks and plays as well as art inspired by the theme of the exhibition.

On November 7 Andrew Greaves, a member of Hexham Quaker meeting and  one of the exhibition’s organizers, will be talking in the Great Hall at the Abbey about the life of his grandfather Corder Catchpool who was a conscientious objector.  One of the first to volunteer as an ambulance driver, Corder served at the front in that capacity until 1916, when he came home to face a military tribunal, and was then held in solitary confinement until the end of the war.

Remembrance Sunday is on November 8, when a Service of Remembrance will be held at the Abbey, following  the usual parade and laying of wreaths at the war memorial. 

On Monday, November 9,  Hexham Community Choir will perform in the North Transept before a performance of the play Red Flag over Bermondsey – The Ada Salter Story.  Written and performed by Lynn Morris, this performance explores the life of Ada Salter who was a radical, campaigner for equal rights, socialist, republican, pacifist, environmentalist, trade union activist and leading light in the transformation of the Bermondsey slums in the early part of the 20th century.

On Friday November 13 members of Veterans for Peace will be at St Aidan’s Church offering some personal reflections on their military service in Afghanistan, Iraq or elsewhere, followed by a showing of the film The Unseen March and an opportunity for discussion.

On Saturday, November 14, Alan Grint, well-known local author of 'The Faith and Fire Within' will be at St Mary’s Centre to speak about the action of all four battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers in the Great War.  Alan Grint will feature their exploits during their service on the Western Front from April 1915 until three of the four battalions were annihilated during the Blucher offensive of 1918.

In the afternoon, the Forum Cinema will host the play 'England’s Splendid Daughters' by Jo Alberti of Keswick Peace and Human Rights Group, featuring three women who became ambulance drivers close to the Western Front.

Offering  something for all ages, Margi McAllister will be reading from her book 'Archie’s War' at Cogito Books that afternoon.

On November 16 in the Etheldreda Room in Hexham Abbey, Clive Barrett will speak on his book 'Subversive Peacemakers' which explores the range of resistance to war, recounting the stories of those who struggled to secure peace in a militarised and fragmenting society, among them peace groups and poets, preachers and politicians, women and working men.

On Thursday, November 19, Brian Tilley deputy editor of the Hexham Courant  will give a talk in the North Transept of the Abbey about his forthcoming book 'Tynedale in the Great War'.  He will look at the conflict from a local perspective, and include letters from lads at front, two VC winners, fund-raising efforts, turning the Abbey cloisters into allotments, the Gem cinema burning down, the men who marched off to war 24 hours too soon and had to go home again, the impossible work of the military tribunals, and Sammy the fighting terrier.

The festival will draw to a close that night with The Village Band, performing songs from the era at the Tap and Spile.

For further information about these events please visit www.voicesandchoiceshexham.org or contact Tamsin Beevor 01434 603 022

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