Birmingham youngsters to unveil Pledges for Peace

Pupils from schools in Birmingham have been taking inspiration from peace activists of the past.

Words of Peace research at Kings Norton School

Young people across Birmingham have been exploring some of the influential peace campaigns that were active in the city during and after World War 1, in a new project by leading arts & heritage organisation Sampad.

Funded by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, Words of Peace has been encouraging a new generation to debate and discuss the themes of war and peace while helping them to find out more about people and places associated with local pacifist movements.

As well as learning about local peace initiatives associated with the Great War, primary, secondary and sixth form pupils have been expressing their own thoughts and feelings about war, using creative writing and physical movement. The students will now come together to share their learning and experiences at a special Words of Peace celebration event on Tuesday 12 July at St Thomas’ Peace Garden in Birmingham City Centre.

One of the event’s key highlights will be the union of 150 peace pledges created during the project, which will be installed by the participants onto a specially sculpted peace tree that will go on to tour to schools in the region.

Words of Peace also received support from the Harry Payne Fund, administered by Heart of England Community Foundation. The Fund was set up in 1939 by Harry Payne, a Birmingham businessman with a strong faith, whose pacifist beliefs had led to him being imprisoned during the First World War as a conscientious objector.

To connect them with Harry’s legacy, pupils will have a special opportunity to meet and interview his grandson Donald Payne at the event and find out about Harry’s life and work. They will also watch a short theatrical dance piece from the workshops, exploring the concepts of peace and war through South Asian dance movement, created and performed by Anusha Subramanyam and inspired by leading peace advocates of the past including Mahatma Gandhi and renowned Nobel Prize winner Rabindranath Tagore.

In addition, they will have a chance to take part in activities that will allow them to uncover the history of St Thomas Peace garden itself. The research that has been gathered during Words of Peace will be used within new learning packs which can be used by schools throughout the country. Sampad is now looking for community volunteers who will be trained to explore local First World War archive materials as part of the project.

Vanessa Harbar, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund West Midlands, says: “The impact of the First World War was far reaching, touching and shaping every corner of the UK and beyond. The Heritage Lottery Fund has invested in projects – large and small – that are marking this Centenary. Our new small grants programme is enabling even more communities like those involved in Words of Peace to explore the continuing legacy of this conflict and help local young people in particular to broaden their understanding of how it has shaped our modern world.”

The Words of Peace Celebration Event takes place 10am-12pm, Tuesday 12 th July 2016 at St Thomas’ Peace Garden, Birmingham B15 1LZ.

If you would like to volunteer to contribute to the project by exploring local archives containing World War One materials, contact Katy Wade, Words of Peace Project Coordinator for Sampad on 0121 446 3267 or [email protected]