In November 2018, Leeds Museums & Galleries commissioned a large-scale commemoration programme across the city to encourage people to think about the end of the First World War. We called this series of events, displays and exhibitions ‘Armistice & After’ as it focused on how the war ended and its echoes to today.

A flyer for the armistice and after programme.

Armistice & After – Leeds Museums & Galleries Armistice 100 Programme

Six of our nine venues hosted touching acts of commemoration. From a Lone Piper at Temple Newsam (a former war hospital) to a poignant re-display at Leeds Art Gallery, focusing on how artists remember the dead, our sites, collections and audiences led our response to the Armistice.

A man dressed in a kilt and a bearskin hat is playing the bagpipes on the terrace at Temple Newsam. It is dark but the sun is beginning to rise.

Pipes sound at 5am on 11 November 2018, one hundred years after the Armistice was signed. Photographed by Rich Wallwork

Building on our community arts programme at Leeds City Museum, over 100 groups from around the city got involved with creating a huge display of symbols of peace inspired by our collections, filling the Brodrick Hall.

External funding meant that some groups were able to work with a textile artist, Agnis Smallwood, to create their own interpretations of a 1918 Armistice flag belonging to a young woman from Leeds. We encouraged people to reflect on the impact of the First World War, whether on their family, on their neighbourhood, or on society today, asking the question throughout “what does peace mean to us today”? Sikh communities in the city commissioned a new statue called ‘Peaceful War’ to remember the role of soldiers from their communities.

To remember how people in Leeds were affected by the war, Leeds Industrial Museum hosted an installation of community-made yellow poppies, to remember the lives and death of munitions workers from 1914 to 1918.

A woman is standing in front of a wall of handmade yellow and red poppies.

Placement student Robyn encourage groups to create yellow poppies to remember munitions workers.

At Abbey House Museum, we worked with local communities and the University of Leeds to host an exhibition called Remembrance, which focussed on stories of grief from our collections, including those from 1918. At Kirkstall Abbey, we worked with artist Suman Kaur and faith groups from around the city to think about the role of people of different faiths from around the world.

An artist is standing in front of two full length portrait paintings.

Artist Suman Kaur with her new commissions for ‘Faith in Peace & War’

People from Leeds curated and shaped our First World War commemoration programme, whether as creators, researchers, advisors or volunteers.

In November 2018, we worked with over 130 different groups and partners, twenty volunteers and three work placements, who helped us to host 60,000 visitors to our First World War events. We also published a volunteer-written book!

Funding for all this activity came from: Leeds City Council, Arts Council England and the AHRC Centre Gateways to the First World War.

The front cover of a book called The Leeds Pals: A Handbook For Researchers.

The Leeds Pals Handbook – written and researched by Leeds Museums & Galleries volunteers

Some highlights of the programme from our friends:

“My Dad was acknowledged as part of history.”

“The programme really brought the war and the memories of the community together. Brilliant.”

“Since 2014 and more so since my involvement this year, I have seen through the way in which the project has been able to work as a city wide engagement how many audiences can be reached and the contributions that people of different ages, faiths, etc. can put into our understanding of the conflict.”

“I work intensively with individuals suffering with mental health. Lucy Moore ‘s enthusiasm to share her knowledge with others despite, at times, the difficulties faced with the client group, is heart warming. I look forward to working on further projects with Leeds Museums & Galleries.”

“The temporary exhibitions in the Brodrick Hall which were citywide touched so many people and communities. The three projects – Poppies, Forget Me Nots and Peace were all so beautiful and the room looked amazing each time. The work and effort that went into these was amazing and brought communities together in a really unique and special way. I was proud and moved to be part of it.”

“A packed and mind-expanding four years thanks to an extremely dedicated curator and her army of volunteers!”

By Lucy Moore, Projects Curator at Leeds Museums & Galleries.