From War Veteran to Classroom Hero
Since 2003 the bank accounts of parents all over the country have been taking a hit thanks to the phenomenon that is the Call of Duty video game franchise. The shooter game has spawned a whole new language in many households: it is now commonplace for parents to hear their children use online military terminology such as ‘kill-to-death ratios’, ‘highest killstreak’ or even asking when they are ‘next due a prestige’.
To most young people, the ‘Call of Duty’ is just a fantasy game – but, in November, six Meden School pupils participating in the Youth in Action project learned about the reality of combat when they met one of Warsop’s real life veterans, Bill Power (pictured right).
The sessions were set up and supported by Caroline Hughes from Creative Warsop, who arranged for Bill to visit the school to talk to the young people about his five tours and twenty years of military service. The pupils were enthralled as Bill took them through a 300 year historical tour of the conflicts and history of the Light Infantry. He explained some of the battles and skirmishes that had played a key part in English and Irish heritage and had forever shaped our country’s future.
One young person said: “We didn’t know much about wars, other than World War One and Two. Thanks to Bill, I now know much more about other places close to home that have been affected by war.”
Ben Melling from Warsop Youth Group said: “It was great to see the young people sit and listen and refreshing to see how much pride they had in their own heritage. The session really challenged their perceptions about conflict and wars. Caroline from Creative Warsop and I were astonished when one person asked about the heritage of the poppy and challenged some of the things they had heard about the white poppy.”
One of the young people who attended summed up the session perfectly when he said: “We need more people like Bill. Bill is so much better than books. He brings all the stories and films to life.”
The talk by Bill was part of a larger programme of activities being delivered by Creative Warsop, a project that aims to explore Warsop’s creativity and give people opportunities to share their valuable skills and knowledge and learn from each other.
Caroline from Creative Warsop said: “We planned the sessions at Meden School to teach craft skills that focus on recycling and also on Remembrance Day themes. Bill came along to share his experiences and there was also a session led by members of the Stitch and Sew Group who are lifelong sewing bees. Everyone worked well together and the group showed lively enthusiasm and understanding.”
Creations in wire work using scrap, poppies made from plastic bottles and tin cans, and mosaic work were produced during the sessions. The group explored ‘Wave’, the poppy installation from the Tower of London that is now touring the country. The group considered a new take on the old idea by using a sea of poppies made of camouflage material. The young people looked at World War One tank designs and war paintings by Paul Nash and used these as inspiration to come up with a poignant idea for a group mosaic.”
“The mosaic idea the group came up with featured soldiers from both sides in a conflict of attrition, sitting back to back against a burned out tree wrapped in barbed wire,” said Caroline. “This illustrated a point Bill had made that since the supposed ‘War to end all Wars’ of 1914-18, there have only been three days when a British soldier has not fought in a conflict somewhere in the world.”
The art of war
The Creative Warsop project has also been working with the Stitch and Sew group, which is a fantastic social hub for stitchers, knitters, and sewing bee members. In November, Creative Warsop ran a session with the group on The Art of World War One.
Caroline from Creative Warsop said: “We explored the context of the twentieth century art world and the war itself. When we examined the Imperial War Museum collections there were some really enlightened responses to the art of the period.”
The Stitch and Sew group considered styles of Vorticism, Cubism and Fauvism and then focused on war artists and brothers Paul and John Nash, whose direct images portrayed their experience as army officers on the front line. Wire by Paul Nash (pictured left) is one of the images studied. The group also looked at Stanley Spencer’s religious and often poignant paintings depicting his time as a hospital orderly and later as a soldier on the front.
The group discussed themes such as the stark reality of war scapes; man as pawn or machine; the light shining through a war-torn landscape; and eternal concepts of redemption. They considered how they would form a tapestry in the style of Bayeaux, or each person creating a panel in needle-felt inspired by the shapes and content of the paintings they had studied.
The photos below show the progress made so far on the mosaic. To keep up-to-date with news of all of the latest Creative Warsop sessions, follow their Creative Warsop Facebook site.