LEST we forget...
The legacy of the First World War has inspired members of Ocean Arts, based at the Trinity House Social Centre at Laygate, to create a diverse series of artworks.
The title of the exhibition – ‘Look At Your Front’ – refers to both the Western Front in France, where millions of British soldiers lost their lives, and to the ‘Home Front’, where women and children ‘kept the home fires burning’ during the bloody four-year conflict. As preparation for the exhibition group members were briefed on the impact the conflict had at the time and on its continued legacy.
Martin Wray, art tutor and chairman of Ocean Arts, said: “We held in-house sessions looking at various aspects of the war, which included how it impacted close to home, such as at East Holborn in South Shields, exploring the living conditions at the time, the shopping habits and the schools of the era.”
The lives of town individuals who played their part in the conflict were on the learning agenda, including Henry Robson, who was awarded the Victoria Cross, and Aussie war hero John Kirkpatrick.
The research also looked at the role women played during the war and their efforts working in munitions’ factories.
Mr Wray added: “We even looked at the role of animals. We discovered that elephants were taken out of zoos to plough fields.”
All of the detailed research infuses the 33 pieces of artwork, which will be on display from tomorrow at the Fusion Gallery at the Customs House, in Mill Dam, South Shields.
At the centre of the evocative collection is a 10-panel piece which focusses on the famous Christmas ‘football truce’ between British soldiers and their German foes in 1914.
Mr Wray added: “The art group members and the staff have learned so much about how the war began and its ongoing legacy.
“Its impact is still felt today from such things as the introduction of the Rent Act, which governed how rents were levied for decades.
“School dinners were first introduced during the war and the role of women was never the same again after that conflict, even in them being allowed to wear trousers – which was just so more more practical when they were working in the munitions’ factories.
“The society that we have today was fashioned by that war. “Of course the exhibition reflects the terrible loss of lives but it also explores its impact on society back home.”
The exhibition will be officially opened tomorrow at noon by South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck, a long-time supporter of Ocean Arts, who will also hand out certificates of achievement to the art students.
Ocean Arts offers adults with learning disabilities the opportunity to explore the world of art, drama, music and performance.