Wythenshawe youngsters display creative talents as they delve into First World War history for new exhibition

An exhibition of the work of talented Wythenshawe youngsters to commemorate the First World War and the poetry of Wilfred Owen is being launched at Central Library by the Lord Mayor of Manchester.

The exhibition consists of a moving collection of poetry, letters, art and animation produced by 15 young people aged 11-19 from Wythenshawe.

They took part in a project which was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Manchester City Council and delivered at the Wow Zone Learning Centre in Wythenshawe.

This project was initially prompted by a suggestion by Wythenshawe’s late MP, Paul Goggins, who thought it would be great for local young people to reflect on this year’s WW1 centenary.

The young people have compared Wilfred Owen’s poetry with material from the Archives+ Centre at Manchester Central Library, to see if Owen’s view of life in the trenches accurately reflects the realities of trench warfare.

Andy Jordan, Manager of the WOW Zone, explains; “As the project evolved, we discovered that young people were not only fascinated by the events of 100 years ago, but they could express their thoughts in powerful, creative ways. They have shown great enthusiasm for this project and have used their research to create drama, write poetry and produce animated films – some of which is on display in this exhibition”.

The young people visited local WWI graves, the Imperial War Museum, the newly refurbished Manchester Central Library to examine the archives, The Lowry Theatre to see War Horse and the National Football Museum to discover how important women’s football became during the war.

The project also included a Q & A session with a local ‘older people’s’ group to get a perspective on war, a poetry workshop led by a theatre company and a visit by an army corporal, who told the story of the war from the perspective of Private Tommy Atkins.

Emily, aged 15 said; “I thought the project helped me to understand more about the war. I liked that we didn’t just look everything up on the internet – I was able to see the equipment they had, look in the archives and speak to people who could tell us what war was actually like. I thought it was really interesting”.

Manchester Council’s Executive Member for Culture and Leisure, Councillor Rosa Battle, said: “This project has taken full advantage of the wonderful resources at our interactive Archives+ Centre to help young people connect with one of the most important conflicts in history and express their artistic talents.”

Sara Hilton, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North West, said: “The impact of the First World War was far reaching, touching and shaping every corner of the UK and beyond. We have already invested more than £45 million in commemorative projects, including local community projects like WOW Zone, which will enable young people to explore and record their local wartime history”.

The exhibition is open to the public at Manchester Central Library from Wednesday 10 September until the end of November and then will go ‘on tour’ around community centres in Wythenshawe.

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