ELHAS News - July 2016

ELHAS News July 2016

There has been so much going on these last few months it is hard to know where to start. I suppose the best thing is to do it in chronological order. Since this year is the 100th anniversary both of the Battle of the Somme and of the major explosion at the Barnbow Shell Filling factory there have been many events associated with these.

In March we gave an illustrated talk at Leeds City Museum called "Women at War - The Barnbow Story". This was part of the museum's season of events honouring the role and achievements of women. The talk was very well attended, in fact we ended up with people standing at the back and sitting on the floor in the aisles. We were delighted when a member of the audience offered to let us copy a certificate of employment given to her mother at the end of her service at Barnbow. This was followed on Saturday 7th May by our attending at the annual History Fayre at the museum. We had display boards showing the activities we are involved in as well as one board about the Barnbow factory. We took the opportunity to hand out back copies of the journal which were very well received. It was also a chance to meet other Leeds historians. We were particularly glad to meet Steven Burt and Michael Meadowcroft who both made favourable comments about the Leeds History Journal.

We have been heavily involved with the production of "Barnbow Canaries" at the West Yorkshire Playhouse which opened in June. When the actors first started rehearsing we were asked to give a short talk to the cast about Barnbow, this was followed by requests from the wardrobe department and the set director for photos and information, which we were happy to supply. Finally we were asked to provide information for the programme notes which took the form of a newspaper of the period. We thoroughly enjoyed attending the official first night of the play and the opportunity at the reception afterwards to renew our acquaintance with the author and the cast. During that same week we took part in a broadcast on the Today programme on Radio Four and were filmed by the BBC for an item about Barnbow which will feature in the "Inside Out"' programme in November. That proved to be a very exciting experience and we are looking forward to viewing the show later in the year.

As part of the Somme commemoration events we were invited to the preview of the new "In Their Footsteps" exhibition at Leeds City Museum and a reception and concert at Leeds Town Hall where we enjoyed a performance of "Requiem For the Armed Man". On the 1st of July we held the presentation ceremony in Manston Park for the winners of the Memorial Garden Design Competition. Over 150 children entered the competition this year which made it a hard task for the judges to select the winner. Eventually the design submitted by Leah Smith of Manston St James Primary Academy which featured a beautiful large red heart was selected. Lucy Swift from Manston Primary and Bethany Parker from Manston St James Primary Academy took second and third places respectively. The winning design was beautifully planted up by the Parks and Countryside department of Leeds City Council and looked stunning on the day. Our MP Richard Burgon presented the prizes aided by Councillor Pauleen Grahame. The children thoroughly enjoyed the event and the weather was kind, saving the rain for later in the day. On the same day we attended the unveiling of the pavement plaque at Leeds Minster to honour Leeds VC winner George Sanders. There will be more plaques unveiled later in the year.

Finally on the 2nd of July we attended the national Somme commemoration held at Heaton Park in Manchester. Not even regular outbursts of torrential rain could mar our enjoyment of this event. Leeds City Council's Museums and Galleries Department had been invited to have a marquee here and chose to take a pop up version of the "Women, Work War" exhibition which is currently on show at Armley Mills Industrial Museum. As we had been involved in curating this exhibition we were asked to attend the Heaton Park event and spend the day chatting to visitors and telling the Barnbow Story. The West Yorkshire Playhouse also had space in the marquee where they had four members of the Barnbow Canaries Community Choir singing songs from the show at intervals during the day which we introduced. The whole thing proved to be a very rewarding experience and despite the changeable weather we were delighted to have almost 1,000 visitors to the tent.

We are taking a break now for the rest of July and August. Our next meeting on Monday the 26th September will be an illustrated talk by Simon Tomson entitled "Roman Castleford".