Creative responses to First World War archives: Men Beat the Walnut Trees

Creative writing in response to #Birmingham Archives and Heritage Great War archives

The Iron Room

On Friday 14th September 2018, here in Archives & Collections at the Library of Birmingham, we held a Creative Writing workshop using First World War archives.

This was a free hands-on Creative Writing session hosted by Birmingham historical novelist and biographer, Fiona Joseph, and Corinna Rayner, the Archives & Collections Manager. Archive material at the Library of Birmingham had been specially selected by Fiona and Corinna to inspire the writers, and it provided a unique opportunity to explore some of the many archival treasures themed around Women at War (Home Front, Industry) and Conscience at War (Quakers, patriotism and pacifism). We had so much material out, including family letters, photographs, posters, postcards, news items and memorabilia from the period which participants could use as a springboard for their own creative responses. Writers at any level, including beginners, were welcomed. For this year’s Explore Your Archives week we thought we’d share…

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#B*gger Brexit as King George the Fifth once said about Bognor Regis!

Keith Bracey the Brummie Bard Birmingham & Black Country poet & writer

Today the British Ambassador to the E.U. delivered a letter to Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, starting the process by which Great Britain leaves the Union.
Though few expected it there are so many reasons why this is happening. The principal one is that we were allowed a referendum on the subject and other countries were not. Other reasons include the credible threat that Nigel Farage and UKIP posed to the Conservatives and the fact that at least one third of the British wanted to leave in every poll taken since 1973. Even well-informed British opinion-formers mostly never understood that the EU was not a trading bloc, but an embryonic federal state. Free movement of people was a design fault in a trading bloc, but it makes perfect sense if Europe is a sort of country.

The E.U. is now widely seen for what it has become: an oligarchic…

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A spotter’s guide to Art Deco architecture

Art Deco in architecture……….form over function……one of the best and most artistic movements in modern architecture….

The Historic England Blog

The bold, geometric, decorative look of Art Deco originated in France in the 1920s.

It gained prominence in architectural design and was heavily influenced by Egypt – particularly after the high profile discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922. During the 1930s, the style was widely adopted through Western Europe and the United States.

Art Deco style stalls bar in Her Majesty's Theatre, Haymarket Art Deco style stalls bar in Her Majesty’s Theatre, Haymarket © Historic England AA020571

A sleeker more cosmopolitan development of Art Nouveau, Art Deco was first used on public and commercial buildings for both its practicality and modern design. Signature characteristics of Art Deco include geometric shapes and angular corners broken up by ornamental motifs. Entrances are often extravagant, roofs tend to be flat and windows can made up of continuous bands of glass.

Art Deco style Interior of the Strand Palace Hotel Interior view of the Strand Palace Hotel showing art deco furnishings in the foyer © Historic England AA98/05945

A curved Art Deco staircase made up of rectangular panels Art Deco Fountain Staircase in…

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A spotter’s guide to Post-Modern architecture

Post Modernism in architecture……..the new embraces the old

The Historic England Blog

Post-Modernism in architecture was an international phenomenon, which can be defined by its relationship to the Modern Movement.

While embracing the technology of industrialised society, Post-Modern architects looked to previous traditions for style and embraced metaphor and symbolism.

Emerging in the 1970s, Post-Modernism was short lived and, as a result, surviving examples of significance in Britain are rare and predominantly found in London or the South East.

Exterior of Hillingdon Civic Centre Hillingdon Civic Centre, RMJM, 1973-1977 © Historic England Archive DP183672

In Europe, Post-Modernism focused on urban context with abstracted references to classicism and the regional vernacular, while in the US the movement prioritised monumental architecture designed in the country’s architectural traditions.

British Post-Modernism used traditional materials and drew influence from architects like Lutyens, movements like Arts and Crafts, and the eclecticism of the Edwardian period.

Exterior of The Red House The Red House, Philip Webb and William Morris, 1859-60 Photo copyright Ethan Doyle White


In the 1960s…

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West Midlands first out of the blocks for superfast 5G

Boulton, Watt and Murdoch made Birmingham and the Black Country the centre of a technological revolution, powered by steam engines which led to the Industrial Revolution…..this area was truly the ‘silicon valley’ of its day… Birmingham is still at the forefront of technological change with the area announced as the test bed of 5G or fifth generation mobile networks, leading to more technological innovation….

Leader of Birmingham

From the Industrial Revolution onwards, Birmingham and the West Midlands have been at the very forefront of technological advances.

Back in the 18th Century, the likes of Matthew Boulton, James Watt and William Murdoch made this the Workshop of The World – a city renowned for endeavour and invention.

Fast-forward 250 years or so and we continue to be a centre for progress in areas such as advanced manufacturing, life sciences and digital innovation. This city and the wider West Midlands is home to one of the largest tech clusters in the UK with more than 40,000 people working in web development, data, e-commerce, animation and other digital industries.

So, as the West Midlands Combined Authority lead for Economic Growth, I’m excited that we have today approved plans to put the West Midlands at the very heart of the next big tech revolution – 5G.

Short for Fifth Generation Mobile…

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The War Poetry Collection in the Library of Birmingham

War Poetry…….particularly poignant, especially Wilfred Owen, the best known Great War poet who was killed in the last week of the Great War…….We will remember them…..Lest we forget…The Fallen

The Iron Room

Book Plate from the Catalogue of the War Poetry Collection. 1921. L52.31.

The War Poetry Collection was presented to the Birmingham Reference Library in 1921 by an anonymous donor, in memory of William John Billington, 2/24 London Regiment, (Queen’s Hussars), 60th Division, formerly 2/2 South Midlands Field Ambulance, who was killed in action at Abu Tellul Ridge in Palestine  on 9 March 1918.

The donor was William Cross of Rubery, who had assembled an unrivalled collection of 1,233 books and pamphlets of poetry relating to the First World War, written by both soldiers and civilians.

Included are poems in English, Breton, Czech, Danish, French, Gaelic, German (Swiss), Italian, and Latin, by members of the British and Allied Nations. There is poetry which was published in Britain, Canada, Australia, America and Barbados.

Many additions were made to the Collection by the Reference Library, notably in 1938 when a fine collection of…

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The Legacy of War

The Mental Health impacts of the Great War where the phrase ‘shell shock’ was used for the first time…….nowadays it is covered by the catch all term ‘post traumatic stress disorder’ or PTSD for all battlefield-related mental health conditions……..We will remember them……Lest we forget…..The Fallen

The Iron Room

The First World War signified a change in the conduct of war. War was now waged on an unprecedented scale against both military forces and civilian populations. The mass mobilisation of military firepower led to untold devastation on the battlefields, campaigns which left millions dead.

Emerging from this ‘total war’ were cases of shell shock, soldiers psychologically affected by the harsh reality of 20th century warfare. Still a relatively new diagnosis, the first use of the term shell shock was believed to have been recorded in the Lancet in 1915 when Charles Myers, Captain in the Royal Army medical Corps, published his article ‘A Contribution to the Study of Shell Shock. Being an Account of Three Cases of Loss of Memory, Vision, Smell and Taste, Admitted into the Duchess of Westminster’s War Hospital, Le Touquet.’

Order for the Reception of a Dangerous Lunatic Soldier. [HC AS] There are only a…

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