British anti-World War I people on stage


This video is called ENGLAND, ARISE! – PROMO. It says about itself:

20 December 2013

A brief promo film of Bent Architect’s research and development project exploring the true story of the Yorkshire Conscientious Objectors of the first world war, at Lawrence Batley Theatre Huddersfield, December, 2013. We are aiming to launch the production in the autumn of 2014 as an alternative commemoration of the centenary.

By Bernadette Hyland in Britain:

England, Arise!

Thursday 23rd October 2014

Bernadette Hyland previews a powerful new play on conscientious objectors during WWI

BENT Architect are not a left-wing theatre group in the traditional sense.

But with England, Arise! they have produced one of the few dramas this year which challenges the government’s propaganda about the First World War.

It is the story of the people who refused to be conscripted into the army in 1916 and the communities that supported them.

Bent Architect are playwright Mick Martin and director Jude Wright, who both have a long history of writing and producing in television, theatre and the community.

They started the theatre group in 2007 and over the years have produced plays addressing issues as varied as bipolar disorder and Charles Darwin.

“It gives us the opportunity to do things that are a little off the wall,” Wright says.

“When a story is right and it is the time to tell it we bring the company into action.”

This time that story is channeled through England, Arise! which focuses on conscientious objectors in Huddersfield during the first world war.

Wright says they want the play to remind people of an important aspect of history in Britain and show how ordinary people can make a difference to the politics of their era.

An important source for the production is Cyril Pearce’s Comrades in Conscience, a study of the opposition to WWI in Huddersfield in which he argues that opposition to the war in the town has been marginalised by mainstream historians.

Interviews Pearce — an adviser on the script — conducted with key members of the town’s Independent Labour Party back in the 1960s revealed that Huddersfield had many conscientious objectors who were not on the margins but supported by what was a highly politicised community.

This is not surprising, given Huddersfield’s importance to the textile industry and the socialist politics which sprang from it.

England, Arise! tells the story of Arthur Gardiner, a dyers’ labourer from the town, who refused to fight in the first world war because of his political beliefs.

The verbatim account of his defence before a military service tribunal in 1916 is used in the production to demonstrate his bravery and the centrality of his socialist politics to his refusal to fight.

Martin has drawn on feminist historian Jill Liddington’s excellent history Rebel Girls which describes the impact of the suffrage movement in towns such as Huddersfield in the early 1900s when it drew significant numbers of women to the cause.

The play shows how young men such as Gardiner were inspired by those women’s experience of imprisonment, hunger strikes and being treated as aliens in their own country.

The lyrics of traditional socialist songs will accompany the action, with local musicians composing new musical accompaniments.

“Ultimately it is a very dramatic and universal story of people standing up for what they believe in,” Martin says.

“It’s also very hopeful, about young men and women who believe in a better world and are committed to bringing it about peacefully.”

England, Arise! premieres at the Lawrence Batley Centre, Huddersfield, on October 24-24, then tours the north of England until November 19, details: bentarchitect.co.uk.

2 thoughts on “British anti-World War I people on stage

  1. Pingback: Australians against World War I, new book | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: English anti-World War I resistance on stage | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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