Women’s Work

Women & Theatre encouraging local people to get involved in their new WW1 project.

Award-winning Women & Theatre are encouraging people with connections to Small Heath to take part in a new heritage project, Women’s Work, exploring the experiences of women working in factories during the First World War thanks to a £10,000 grant from Heritage Lottery Fund.

Anyone with relatives or ancestors with connections to the First World War Birmingham Small Arms factory are encouraged to share their family stories with Women & Theatre. Women’s Work will bring together women aged from 18 – 65 to carry out heritage research using archive and oral history techniques. Project participants will develop and be part of a new piece of theatre, creating a touring exhibition and a digital archive connecting modern audiences with the stories of female factory workers during the conflict.

Women interested in taking part, and those with stories to share about their female ancestors during the First World War, are invited to come along to a Creative Weekend on 14 and 15 February from 10am to 4pm at Golden Hillock Children’s Centre, Small Heath. During the weekend participants will research the era, women’s roles and Birmingham factories, and start to develop ideas for the performance piece.

Janice Connolly, Artistic Director of Women & Theatre, said: “It is exciting to be embarking on a First World War centenary project which will bring the female voice into focus, particularly with such strong connections to the work of female factory workers in Small Heath during the First World War. We look forward to uncovering stories that tell us more about life in the factories and the impact the conflict had on the women on the home front.”

Reyahn King, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund West Midlands, added: “The impact of the First World War was far reaching, touching and shaping lives on both the Western Front and the Home Front. We’re pleased to support this project which will see a number of volunteers gain heritage skills and put the lives and stories of Small Heath’s female wartime workers in the spotlight.”

During the project, participants will visit the BSA factory site, carry out oral history interviews with relatives of factory workers and access the Library of Birmingham’s First World War collections working with a professional archivist. Following the research process, participants will collaborate with theatre professionals to produce a new performance piece which will depict a day in the life of a female factory worker.

Women’s Work is a sister project to successful The Chocolate Soldiers which Women & Theatre created in 2013/14 with funding from HLF. This involved young men carrying out research into the lives and experiences of men like them who lived 100 years ago and were recruited to fight in the First World War.

Women’s Work is funded by Heritage Lottery Fund as well as by Birmingham City Council, The Roughley Trust, The Grimmitt Trust and The Cole Charitable Trust.

For further information on the Creative Weekend and how you can get involved please email [email protected] or call Women & Theatre on 07817 670881.