Progress Reports

Courage of Conscience Project – Propeace Chesterfield

Evaluation of the project – October 2016

Introduction

The Courage of Conscience project aimed to uncover some of the hidden heritage about Derbyshire conscientious objectors. We wanted to explore the issues and stories in a creative way, involving young people and the local community in the process, and bringing local history to as wide an audience as possible.

 

Year 1 of the project September 2014 – September 2015

Research

We researched a number of Derbyshire conscientious objectors and their supporters. We used resources available in the Derbyshire Records Office, local libraries, the Working Class History Records Office in Salford, the women’s suffrage records held at the London School of Economics, Quaker records, the Peace Pledge Union records, the database compiled by Cyril Pearce and a number of online sources.  Through our publicity and our contacts with the local community, we have encouraged local people to be involved in the research and to share any information they may have from their personal experience and history. Local newspapers proved to be a particularly rich source of material.

 

Work with schools – teaching history through drama

Gertie Whitfield, of Whitworks, who is a former teacher and drama advisor,  used local research material to create teaching packages for both primary and secondary age children. She successfully piloted both of these in local schools, Grassmoor Primary School with Year 5 pupils, and Dronfield Secondary School with Year 9 pupils.  She has received excellent reviews from both children and teachers.

These are a few of the comments made by children:

 “It has been very interesting to find out about war stories that are not super well known and I liked looking at the documents.” 

“Well liked it because it was a mix between drama and history and we were independent and made our own speech. Thank you.” 

“It was not your original stereotypical approach to war – it was more – it helped us learn about war.” 

“Really interesting. Leant lots of new, interesting things. Fun activities to keep us interested. Interactive. Nice to do something different than writing. Challenged us to be creative. Overall very enjoyable.” 

“It was very interesting seeing real documents from the war. It was a good way of teaching the class and getting everyone involved.”

She  also ran a free interactive one day training workshop for teachers on how to use the teaching packages, which was exceptionally well received.

These are a few of the comments made by teachers who attended the workshop:

Absolutely loved today! I have learnt so much and I know our school will fully embrace the project.”

Gertie is excellent! Fun teacher! Excellent day! So enjoyable, fun and engaging! This is an excellent resource and will be well used effectively over the years. I can see links that I would explore further with the children”

A great resource! The children will learn so much through the style of teaching – no textbooks, not just sitting down. The links between curriculum subjects is amazing and fits in so well with the new national curriculum.

An excellent course. I’ve already learnt a lot about WW1 and I’m looking forward to learning more with my class.

Excellent day. Really enjoyable. Learned lots about history and how to bring it alive.

A superb day! Fantastic value for money which will be passed on at school and to other colleagues as a great resource to bring the topic to the children in a fun, though-provoking and balanced way.

A number of schools in Derbyshire used her teaching resources in the academic year 2015-16.

Derby Global Education and Global Learning Development East Midlands are promoting the teaching packages with schools in Derby.

Her teaching packages are available free of charge on the Courage of Conscience website, Gertie Whitfield’s website, and the Times Educational Supplement website. They have been sent to the Derbyshire Records Office for their records and website.

 

Public meetings

We held 3 successful public meetings in Chesterfield.

  1. Ben Copsey from the Peace Pledge Union spoke at a packed meeting of over 50 people at the Chesterfield Labour Club on  29th November 2014. He talked about the background to conscientious objection in UK and about a number of North Derbyshire conscientious objectors.

 

Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins attended the meeting and listened to the story of George Benson who was MP for Chesterfield from 1929 -31 and 1935 to 64. Benson was beaten and tortured for refusing military commands.

 

  1. Cyril Pearce spoke to a meeting of over 30 people in Chesterfield Library on 14th March. Cyril is a retired lecturer from Leeds University, the author of “Comrades in Conscience”, and a leading authority on First World War conscientious objectors. He has compiled a database of over 17,000 WW1 Cos and he spoke about the database and explained how to use it. He gave the project several copies of his database which has proved an invaluable resource.

 

  1. Emily Johns and Gabriel Carlyle spoke at a meeting of 40 people at Chesterfield Library on Saturday 13th June 2015. ‘The World is my Country’ is an exhibition of posters which celebrates key figures and events from the First World War anti-war movement, with the striking graphic art of Emily Johns.

 

Year 2 of the project September 2015 – September 2016

Research

A number of volunteers continued to research into local conscientious objectors, and increasingly involved the young writer’s group with River Wolton and Ali Betteridge. They used the Derbyshire Records Office, local libraries, the Peace Pledge Union records, the database compiled by Cyril Pearce and also online resource information such as the British Newspaper Archive which we subscribed to, and Our Heritage website, and developed both research skills and knowledge about local conscientious objectors.

The young writer’s’ group 

Working with River Wolton and Ali Betteridge, the young writers researched and wrote. They wrote poems, short stories and short drama pieces, which were then complied into a book. The book Courage of Conscience Imagined Voices of Derbyshire’s WW1 Conscientious Objectors included a history of events with many images of the war. The most important element of the book is the young people’s creative writing pieces which brought the history to life. The foreword was written by Cyril Pearce whose database has proved so useful to the project.

The book has an ISBN ( 978-0-9929152-2-3) and 150 copies of the book were printed. These have been free and widely distributed to the public and to libraries and archives. (A distribution list is attached with this report).

The book is freely available to download from our website and from ISSUU

https://issuu.com/courageofconscience/docs/courage_of_conscience

Spreading the word about the project

We have had a number of articles and items about the Courage of Conscience project  included in the Derbyshire Times.

Gertie Whitfield has spoken about the conscientious objectors on Radio Sheffield.

South Yorkshire Through Time First World War conference 26th April 2015 included the Derbyshire Courage of Conscience project . Gertie Whitfield did a short presentation about the Courage of Conscience project concentrating on the educational resource. It was well received and South Yorkshire through time took a transcript of what she said, which is available on the link below.

http://www.southyorkshirethroughtime.org.uk/content/news/remembering-and-forgetting-exploring-local-commemorations-of-ww1

Conscientious Objection and Resistance to the First World War Conference in Leeds, on Saturday March 19th 2016. Our Courage of Conscience project  had a stall at this well attended event. The young writers also ran a workshop at the event and read some of their work which was very well received. Gertie Whitfield also spoke at the workshop.

 

Courage of Conscience Exhibition

Some of the members of the project worked with Dan Oakley from the Donut Creative Arts Studio in Chesterfield to create the exhibition. Using the large body of research material compiled by the group, they selected text and images in a series of meetings with Dan. Dan then designed the materials and they were printed onto 4 screens measuring 16 feet. The exhibition is available on the website.

The exhibition was first shown at our special commemoration event on 23rd June 2016.It then moved to Chesterfield library to begin its tour of libraries, schools, and community venues that will continue until 2018. After Chesterfield it moved to Shirebrook library, and  is currently at Glossop Library, soon to move to Buxton library.

 

Courage of Conscience Website

The website now includes much of the research material as well as the book, teaching packs and exhibition. We are continuing to place more material onto it.

The website is:

http://www.courageofconscience.wordpress.com

Courage of Conscience Final Event on 23rd June 2016

This was held in the Donut Creative Arts Studio in Chesterfield. It was widely publicised through libraries, community venues and the Derbyshire Times. Well over 100 people attended including the Mayor of Chesterfield and several town and county councillors.

The exhibition was on display for the first time and attracted a lot of interest. Year 6 children from All Saints Primary School in Matlock performed the stories of several local conscientious objectors including a tribunal held in Buxton in 1916. The young writers group read some of their work and their book was given to people who attended.

Chris Fuller from York Stop the War group spoke about resistance across Europe to the 1st World War, and the mayor gave a vote of thanks to the performers and volunteers. Rowan Rheingans completed the evening with some anti-war songs.

A short video of the event is available on the website, and on the link below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_Kl5Zk3xkA

 

The audience was invited to write some comments about the event, a few of which are below and a full list is included in the Appendix.

  • I have liked doing all the drama and I have learnt a lot about conscientious objectors.
  • It was very good and interesting. I enjoy history at school and I love learning more which I have. 
  • I loved performing. THANK YOU! Thank you for listening.
  • Would lntastic project brought to life by the children’s performance, the writers and absolutely everyone involved in the project. A superb effort – well done to all.
  • The play was superb. It should be shown in schools across the country.
  • Powerful event. Exhibition great and informative. All Saints School pupils very professional performers. Thanks to all who did the work. 
  • Thank you for enlightening me about our true heroines and history. The children were amazing and Chris’s talk most interesting. The music and poetry complimented the evening.
  • The local human stories were powerful and moving – inspiring stuff. Thanks
  • I’m extremely glad that information is going out to schools. Very impressed with the overall presentation. Thank you
  • I especially enjoyed the talk by the person from York. The children’s performance was very good, and very moving. I enjoyed the young writers readings.
  • A really good atmosphere in a supportive community, reflecting the interest in the research done. Extensive exhibition and glad to hear it is going on tour and available in Derbyshire. Great creative selection, play by 10-11 years, writings and readings + music. A really varied and thought provoking evening. Thank you!
  • Moved to tears by the school piece. What powerful lines of history. Let’s learn them and keep telling.
  • Exhibition excellent. Drama from the young people was very moving and very well done. Interesting perspective on the ‘end of the war’.
  • I found the evening terrific. It was very informative and very humbling. More of this side of wars need to be taught to our young people in schools. 

 

Outcomes of the Courage of Conscience Project

LEARNING ABOUT HERITAGE

What we said in our bid – The local community, community and local history groups throughout Derbyshire,  young people and children will have been able to learn more about the conscientious objectors, and reasons for objection to World War 1. They will have engaged with the history and ideas of the period through research, writing, drama, and production of an exhibition and online materials, and special events. 

Outcomes we achieved – we have involved up to 100 children and young people in learning more about the conscientious objectors, through writing, drama and research. Many more may have learned about it through work done in schools using the teaching packs developed by Gertie Whitfield as part of the project.  Over 200 people from local history groups and local communities in Derbyshire have attended some of our talks and special events and learned more about the conscientious objectors. Hundreds, possibly thousands will see the exhibition as it tours Derbyshire in the next 2 years.

  • It has been very interesting to find out about war stories that are not super well known and I liked looking at the documents.
  • Well liked it because it was a mix between drama and history and we were independent and made our own speech. Thank you.
  • It was not your original stereotypical approach to war – it was more – it helped us learn about war.
  • It has been very interesting to learn about local history, particularly from the point of view of ordinary people. It’s brought Derbyshire history to life for me – it’s not all just about mills and canals!

 

DEVELOPING SKILLS

What we said in our bid  – Many volunteers will have developed skills in researching and writing about heritage. Teachers will have developed skills in using local heritage, and attended training in using teaching materials based on local research, using real documents incidents and individuals. 

Outcomes we achieved – In the region of 12 people have been involved in doing the research and have developed skills in how to research local history.  100 children and young people have developed skills of writing about history in a creative way and also performing history through drama. 12 teachers have developed skills in using local heritage to teach history, using real documents etc. Many other teachers may have used the teaching packs which comprehensively explain how to use the research to bring history to life.

  • Gertie’s pack was a great starting point. My year 4/5 really found learning about WW1 very interesting
  • An excellent day of learning! The practical activities, which are based on resource, lets you try them so you are confident to then transfer to the class. I am 100% buzzing and confident and can’t wait til September. I may even try it with my Y6 over next few weeks!!
  • A superb day! Fantastic value for money which will be passed on at school and to other colleagues as a great resource to bring the topic to the children in a fun, though-provoking and balanced way.
  • Yes. It was great to work through everything – the resource – and experience what the children might go through – really helps with understanding, planning, delivery.
  • Given confidence to use the materials / discuss the issues. Think the young writers will be keen to use too.
  • I have learned a lot about how to do local history research
  • It has enabled me to learn from some inspiring historians like Cyril Pearce and Adam Hochschild and made me feel a little bit like a genuine historian, especially following our visit to archives in Salford and London. 
  • It was great learning how to put an interesting exhibition together.
  •  ‘Treasurer’  felt a rather  grand and daunting title for someone who had previously  dealt with only small amounts.  It was clear I would have to learn new skills and be very organised. With that in mind I set aside a date each month where I dedicated time to the project  and to exploring  best ways of recording  and sharing the accounts information.  

 

 

CHANGING ATTITUDES

 What we said in our bid People will learn about the brave individuals of conscience who went against the prevailing ideology of the period, and will develop respect for the principled position of the objectors to the war. As people develop a greater knowledge and understanding, the perception of objectors as cowards and traitors, as they were usually portrayed during the war, will change. Families and descendants of these individuals will hopefully feel a pride in the principled opposition of their relatives to the horrors of the war. 

Outcomes we achieved – through our project events and information, hundreds of people have learned more about conscientious objectors and their reasons and motivation for opposing war. Hopefully this will have helped to change attitudes towards these brave individuals.

Comments include:

  • The conscientious objectors were true heroes who suffered persecution for opposing this murderous, evil, pointless war. Good effort by all involved especially the kids in the play.
  • The evening provided some interesting alternative perspectives which are important for children to hear.
  • It’s been a brilliant evening. Didn’t realise every country wanted an end to war. Also there were so many COs – 2 in our village – and nothing of their lives was passed down through the years. 
  • I found the evening terrific. It was very informative and very humbling. More of this side of wars need to be taught to our young people in schools. 
  • It was hard to be a Conscientious Objector because you were basically against everyone else in society.
  • I really enjoyed it and it made us all think about the conscientious objectors, WW1 and the issues as well and how to explore these issues with children.
  • Lots of ideas and activities and drama for exploring difficult ethical issues. Looks at the issue from a number of points of view in a very engaging and lively way. Goes on a journey that takes you further in to WW1.
  • Very good at getting you to think about the issues; how people may have felt / thought at the time – empathise with different points of view. Complex issues.
  • I am currently working on WW1 and will be doing so next term also; this day has given me a different perspective in respect to conscientious objectors and the hard-line treatment of this valid group from society.
  • Personally. I have learned a great deal about WW1. I have come to recognise how courageous it was to oppose war. The lives of the people we researched were made so difficult for themselves and their families.

 

ENJOYABLE EXPERIENCES

What we said in our bid We believe that researchers will find this a fascinating area of history which has not yet been fully explored. Young people involved in researching, writing and creating drama and digital materials out of the local collections and documents, will hopefully have enjoyed working together, and learning about a different aspect of their heritage.

Outcomes we achieved – comments below show how much people who participated in the project, or attended events, enjoyed the experiences.

  • I have thoroughly enjoyed being a volunteer on this project. It has been very rewarding to see it develop from just a vague idea through to fruition. The feedback from our final event has made all the hard work worthwhile.
  • Absolutely loved today! I have learnt so much and I know our school will fully embrace the project.
  • Gertie is excellent! Fun teacher! Excellent day! So enjoyable, fun and engaging! This is an excellent resource and will be well used effectively over the years. I can see links that I would explore further with the children.
  • I especially enjoyed the talk by the person from York. The children’s performance was very good, and very moving. I enjoyed the young writers readings.
  • Thanks for a truly entertaining evening – much to think about!
  • I found the evening terrific. It was very informative and very humbling. More of this side of wars need to be taught to our young people in schools. 
  • It was so good and I loved performing. YAY  Thank you sooo much.
  • It was very good and interesting. I enjoy history at school and I love learning more which I have. 
  • I enjoyed performing in front of so many people and the MAYOR yes the MAYOR. It was very good.
  • I loved performing. THANK YOU! Thank you for listening.
  • Thank you so much for a super day. I’ve not only learned a lot – I had a great time too! 
  • Excellent day. Really enjoyable. Learned lots about history and how to bring it alive.

 

VOLUNTEERING TIME

What we said in our bid  – The many volunteers who have worked on this project, from researching, writing, training others, creating materials, exhibitions, websites and being involved in meetings and events, will have gained new skills and confidence, as well as feeling a sense of achievement in working together and contributing to a greater knowledge about their own local heritage. 

Outcomes we achieved – volunteers have happily spent hundreds of hours contributing to the project (see Appendix   for the hours volunteered) including organisers, researchers, young people and children, designers, writers, and musicians. Some of their comments are below.

  • I found researching for the project very interesting and fulfilling. Uncovering another person’s life is fascinating, as the detective work involved in finding any remaining references is stimulating. I developed huge regard for the people as they emerged from obscurity. Finding the house where one of them lived was the icing on the cake!
  • I hope our work will be a genuine legacy for the brave individuals we researched.
  • I enjoyed working with the two professionals. I was so impressed with the way they put so much into the project and how they inspired the young people. 
  • It has been hard work but so worthwhile to see young people involved and learning about their local history. I found it all fascinating and have learned a lot about doing research.
  • It’s been a fantastic project to be involved in.  I’ve learnt so much about Conscientious Objectors in Derbyshire and I’m really pleased young people had the opportunity to be involved creatively – their writing gave a human voice to the individuals we researched.

 

 

Administration of the project

Minutes or our organising meetings can be sent if requested..

Through having an excellent treasurer we have been able to maintain detailed and accurate accounts of how all the funding from Heritage Lottery has been spent. The accounts are attached.

We have also kept an accurate record of volunteer hours which total  655 hours with additional hours continuing to be carried out. The volunteer hour records are also attached.

 

 

Conclusion

We hope that we have left a lasting legacy about the conscientious objectors in Derbyshire and the brave men and women who chose to stand for peace, often at great personal cost.

Our exhibition will continue to tour at various venues in Derbyshire for the next 2 years. Our website contains research material, the teaching packs, the exhibition the ‘Imagined Voices’ book, and photos and videos of events.

The Derbyshire Records office will also have some of our paper records, and is compiling a website with links to all 1st World War Heritage Projects, so will include the Courage of Conscience web link. We are currently in the process of participating in a film that the Derbyshire Records Office is making about local World War 1 Heritage Lottery projects .

We hope that schools in Derbyshire will continue to use the teaching packs and bring knowledge and understanding about the conscientious objectors to new generations of children.

 

Sue Owen

On behalf of the Courage of Conscience Project

October 2016

 

Courage of Conscience Project – Propeace Chesterfield

Midway Report  August 2015

 

Research

Since we received the Heritage Lottery grant in October 2014, we have researched a number of Derbyshire conscientious objectors and their supporters. We have used resources available in the Derbyshire Records Office, local libraries, the Working Class History Records Office in Salford, the women’s suffrage records held at the London School of Economics, Quaker records, the database compiled by Cyril Pearce and a number of online sources. Through our publicity and our contacts with the local community, we have encouraged local people to be involved in the research and to share any information they may have from their personal experience and history.

Local newspapers have proved to be a particularly rich source of material.

The research will continue for the next 6 months.

 

Public meetings

We have held 3 successful public meetings in Chesterfield.

  1. Ben Copsey from the Peace Pledge Union spoke at a packed meeting of over 50 people at the Chesterfield Labour Club on 29th November 2014. He talked about the background to conscientious objection in UK and about a number of North Derbyshire conscientious objectors.

 

Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins attended the meeting and listened to the story of George Benson who was MP for Chesterfield from 1929 -31 and 1935 to 64. Benson was beaten and tortured for refusing military commands.

 

  1. Cyril Pearce spoke to a meeting of over 30 people in Chesterfield Library on 14th Cyril is a retired lecturer from Leeds University, the author of “Comrades in Conscience”, and a leading authority on First World War conscientious objectors. He has compiled a database of over 17,000 WW1 Cos and he spoke about the database and explained how to use it. He gave the project several copies of his database which has proved an invaluable resource.

 

  1. Emily Johns and Gabriel Carlyle spoke at a meeting of 40 people at Chesterfield Library on Saturday 13th June 2015. ‘The World is my Country’ is an exhibition of posters which celebrates key figures and events from the First World War anti-war movement, with the striking graphic art of Emily Johns.

 

Gertie Whitfield’s work with schools

Gertie Whitfield, of Whitworks, who is a former teacher and drama advisor, has used local research material to create teaching packages for both primary and secondary age children. She has successfully piloted both of these in local schools, Grassmoor Primary School with Year 5 pupils, and Dronfield Secondary School with Year 9 pupils.  She has received excellent reviews from both children and teachers.

These are a few of the comments made by children:

“It has been very interesting to find out about war stories that are not super well known and I liked looking at the documents.”

“Well liked it because it was a mix between drama and history and we were independent and made our own speech. Thank you.”

“It was not your original stereotypical approach to war – it was more – it helped us learn about war.”

“Really interesting. Leant lots of new, interesting things. Fun activities to keep us interested. Interactive. Nice to do something different than writing. Challenged us to be creative. Overall very enjoyable.”

“It was very interesting seeing real documents from the war. It was a good way of teaching the class and getting everyone involved.”

She has also run a free interactive one day training workshop for teachers on how to use the teaching packages, which was exceptionally well received.

These are a few of the comments made by teachers who attended the workshop:

“Absolutely loved today! I have learnt so much and I know our school will fully embrace the project.”

“Gertie is excellent! Fun teacher! Excellent day! So enjoyable, fun and engaging! This is an excellent resource and will be well used effectively over the years. I can see links that I would explore further with the children”

“A great resource! The children will learn so much through the style of teaching – no textbooks, not just sitting down. The links between curriculum subjects is amazing and fits in so well with the new national curriculum.”

“An excellent course. I’ve already learnt a lot about WW1 and I’m looking forward to learning more with my class.”

“Excellent day. Really enjoyable. Learned lots about history and how to bring it alive.”

“A superb day! Fantastic value for money which will be passed on at school and to other colleagues as a great resource to bring the topic to the children in a fun, though-provoking and balanced way.”

A number of schools in Derbyshire are planning to use her teaching resources in the academic year 2015-16.

Derby Global Education and Global Learning Development East Midlands are promoting the teaching packages with schools in Derby.

Her teaching packages are included with this report and are also available free of charge on the Courage of Conscience website, Gertie Whitfield’s website, and the Times Educational Supplement website.They have been sent to the Derbyshire Records Office for their records and website.

 

River Wolton and the Derbyshire Young Writer’s Group

River Wolton,former Derbyshire Poet Laureate and co-ordinator of the Derbyshire Young Writers Project, and Ali Betteridge from Derbyshire County Council, are encouraging young people aged 16-30years from across Derbyshire, to become involved in the Courage of Conscience young writers group, where River and Ali will support them with their creative ideas, based on research into World War 1 Derbyshire conscientious objectors.

Some of the young people have already attended the public meetings and have started to research and write about the conscientious objectors.

10 workshops are planned to take place in Chesterfield Library on Saturday mornings, starting in October and taking place every 3 to 4 weeks. The young writers will be able to use resources available in the library to help with their research, and River and Ali will support them with their writing.

We are planning to showcase their writing on the Courage of Conscience website and also at the final Celebration Event.

 

Website

A Courage of Conscience link has been added to the Propeace Chesterfield website and is in the process of being populated with material.

 

Spreading the word about the project

We have had a number of articles and items about the Courage of Conscience project  included in the Derbyshire Times.

Gertie Whitfield has spoken about it on Radio Sheffield.

 

South Yorkshire Through Time First World War conference 26th April 2015

This event was looking at South Yorkshire’s role in the First World War. It did include however, the Derbyshire Courage of Conscience project . Gertie did a short presentation about the Courage of Conscience project concentrating on the educational resource. It was well received and South Yorkshire through time took a transcript of what she said, which is available on the link below.

http://www.southyorkshirethroughtime.org.uk/content/news/remembering-and-forgetting-exploring-local-commemorations-of-ww1

 

Future plans

Regular planning meetings with the main participants in the project are held every 2 months and a number of further events are planned for the future.

 

  1. We are planning to mark National Conscientious Objector Day on 15th May 2016 with some events which will include a public meeting. The speaker will beChris Fuller, who is a leading authority on national and international opposition to World War 1.

 

 

  1. There will be a celebration event on 30th June 2016 which will include a group of primary school children who have worked with Gertie Whitfield and their teachers using the research materials. It will also include performances of some of the work created by the young writer’s group working with River Wolton.

 

 

  1. The creation of an exhibition about some of the Derbyshire conscientious objectors and their supporters, using the research material that has been the basis of the project. We hope that this display can be used for planned events, and will have a chance to tour some Derbyshire libraries, before being placed with the Derbyshire Records Office.

 

 

  1. Research about the Derbyshire conscientious objectors will be placed on the Courage of Conscience website.

 

 

  1. River Wolton, Ali Betteridge and the young writers group will be attending the Resistance to War Conference 18-20th March 2016 in Leeds. They will provide a display of some of our materials and will also speak about the project.

 

 

Sue Owen

Courage of Conscience Project Co-ordinator

August 2015

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