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Letter to an unknown soldier. This year’s commemorations of the outbreak of the 1914-18 war will be dominated by official events – church services, parades,

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Presentation on theme: "Letter to an unknown soldier. This year’s commemorations of the outbreak of the 1914-18 war will be dominated by official events – church services, parades,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Letter to an unknown soldier

2 This year’s commemorations of the outbreak of the war will be dominated by official events – church services, parades, royalty, Westminster Abbey and broadcasts. But they will also feature – less predictably - the beginning of NOW, the five-year cultural programme set up to commission works of art reflecting on that war and its legacies. Kate Pullinger and Neil Bartlett are two of those commissioned artists. Their new work will create a space where people can, in this very war-crowded year, think for themselves, and perhaps even begin to re-think what remembering a war might mean. It will invite the whole country to be part of a large-scale alternative to the more official and regimented forms of commemoration. The idea is simple. In the thirty-seven days between the hundredth anniversary of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand on June 28 th and the hundredth anniversary of the announcement to the House of Commons that Britain was at war on August 4 th – the thirty-seven days, we are told, that made all the ensuing deaths inevitable – everyone in the country will be invited to sit down and write a letter. A personal letter, addressed to the unknown soldier who stands on the famous war memorial on Platform One of Paddington Station; large as life, dressed in full trench uniform and reading a letter from home. LETTER TO AN UNKNOWN SOLDIER invites people to write the letter that the soldier is reading.

3 We want to hear what you have to say to the unknown soldier. He’s waiting to hear from you. Who is this unknown soldier? Charles Sargeant Jagger’s life-size bronze statue of an unidentified trench infantryman stands with its back to a wall halfway down Platform One of Paddington Station. It was erected in 1922 by the Great Western Railway Company in honour of the hundreds of company employees who had been killed in the war. The deliberate placing of the statue at one of the most crowded spots of a working railway station means that thousands of people walk, run and drag their suitcases past this silent figure every day. Like his weary face, the soldier’s uniform makes it clear that he’s on active service in the trenches. There is no indication of who the letter that he has just started reading is from, nor its contents. Some people think that the soldier is smiling as he reads; others disagree.

4 How is LETTER TO AN UNKNOWN SOLDIER going to work? Fifty well-known British writers have already promised to write letters - the list of writers includes names as distinguished and diverse as Stephen Fry, Sebastian Faulks, Malorie Blackman, Val McDermid, Lee Child, and Kamila Shamsie. On June 28 th 2015, those fifty letters will be published on a specially created website 1418NOW.org.uk/letter Alongside these fifty letters there will also be a first wave of letters written by members of the public – including commuters, school students, prisoners, reading groups, trade unionists, parish councils and care homes across the country, many of whom will have been working with Bartlett and Pullinger in the weeks leading up to the opening of the website to create their responses to LETTER TO AN UNKNOWN SOLDIER’s invitation. Then, for the 37 days that the website will stay open, everyone and anyone in the country can write to the soldier, and all of the letters will be collected and published online; a multitude of private voices, combining to create a public record of what this country thinks and feels about war. The LETTER TO AN UNKNOWN SOLDIER website will be constantly updated during these 37 days, with opportunities for people to search for, read and respond to new letters as they arrive. The website will remain open for contributions until late on the night of 4 th August, allowing people to respond to the many ceremonies of commemoration that are being staged across the country and in Europe on that day.

5 Who will write the letters? Everybody; this is a national work of art. The writers of the first fifty letters come from the north, south, east and west - Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales. Bartlett and Pullinger will involve many people who may never have felt entitled or moved to express themselves by writing before, including many young people. How will people write their letters? People can write their letters in two ways. They can post their letter online at the LETTER TO AN UNKNOWN SOLDIER website, or they can send a physical letter to the statue What will happen to the letters? Once the creation of the memorial is complete – at 11pm on 4 August, the archive of writing that makes up LETTER TO AN UNKNOWN SOLDIER will remain available online throughout the full five years of the NOW programme, accessible for people to read right up until Armistice Day People will be able to go to the website to look up their own letters, or to search for and reflect on, for instance, letters from people from the same town or school as themselves, or of the same age - or indeed for letters from people of completely different opinions or backgrounds to their own. Once the five years of the NOW programme are over, the letters will form an official archive housed in the BRITISH LIBRARY, available to future generations and adding to the nation’s collection of war memorials.

6 Who are the rest of the fifty writers who have said they will contribute to LETTER TO AN UNKNOWN SOLDIER? At the time of writing, our writers include the following: A L Kennedy, Alan Hollinghurst, Alan Warner, Alasdair Gray, Amanda Craig, Aminatta Forna, Andrew Motion, Andy McNab, Benjamin Zephaniah, Bernardine Evaristo, Bonnie Greer, Bryony Lavery, Caryl Churchill, Christina Reid, Courttia Newland, Daljit Nagra, David Almond, David Kynaston, Deborah Levy, Esther Freud, Gary Owen, Geoff Dyer, Glenn Patterson, Hollie McNish, Inua Ellams, Jackie Kay, Jo Clifford, Kamila Shamsie, Kathryn Hughes, Laurie Penny, Lee Child, Lesley Pearse, Liz Lochhead, Louise Welsh, Malorie Blackman, Marina Warner, Mark Haddon, Melvin Burgess, Margaret McMillan, Martin Daws, Nathan Filer, Naomi Alderman, Nikesh Shuklah, Owen Jones, Owen Sheers, Patrick Gale, Sebastian Faulks, Selina Todd, Sheila Hancock, Sita Brahmachari, Stella Duffy, Stephen Fry, Val McDermid, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. Who are the two artists creating LETTER TO AN UNKNOWN SOLDIER? Neil Bartlett is a novelist and theatre-director. Kate Pullinger is a novelist and digital writer. Neil and Kate have known each other since 1989, but this is the first time that they have worked together. LETTER TO AN UNKNOWN SOLDIER is a NOW Commission; produced in association with Free Word.

7 Take a look at the website below with your tutor group or in your own time, where you can read some of the letter written to the unknown soldier or write your own: Watch short clips where people ask questions about the soldier on the link above. How can I send my own letter to the unknown soldier? Either: Go onto the website and add yourself to the mailing list OR See Mrs Hamill. How can I send my own letter to the unknown soldier? Either: Go onto the website and add yourself to the mailing list OR See Mrs Hamill.

8 What would you say in your letter to the unknown soldier? Discuss with a partner and have a look at the example below Dear Soldier, You were not unknown to the mother that waved you off. You were not unknown to your friends you laughed with or your siblings you grew up with. You were not unknown to the soldiers who you fought with or the lovers you wrote to. You might be unknown to the people who walk past you everyday. They might glance at you or they might just walk on by but you are there and you are not unknown to the history that put you there. You were someone’s son, brother, friend, love and your sacrifice is neither unknown nor forgotten. By Laura Ryder, Student


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