London 2014: First World War

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London 2014: First World War
War Music: Notes From The First World War
English National Ballet: Lest We Forget
The Great War in Portraits  War Artists at Sea


London is not a city that usually spends too long worrying about the past, but 2014 will be an exception. The coming year marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War - Britain entered the war on 4th August 1914 - and that event is to be commemorated by a series of events and exhibitions in every discipline from art and ballet to music and theatre. Here Peter Watts explores these events.

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World War I: New Galleries

The Great War in Portraits \ War Artists at Sea

The Great War in Portraits \ War Artists at Sea


At the heart of the occasion will be the reopening of the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth after an extensive refurbishment. The centrepiece of the museum will be the ground-breaking new First World War Galleries (open 19th July 2014), which will draw on the richest and most comprehensive collection of First World War material in the world.

The galleries will feature weapons, uniforms, diaries and letters alongside photographs, art, film and interactive digital displays. The IWM will also reopen with Truth And Memory, the first major retrospective of British First World War art for almost 100 years, featuring 110 paintings, sculptures and drawings by artists such as Paul Nash, Eric Kennington and CRW Nevinson.

The National Maritime Museum will commemorate the war with a new gallery, Forgotten Fighters: The First World War At Sea (opens 2nd August 2014), which will draw attention from the horrors of trench warfare to the brutal struggle at sea.


World War I: Art


Art and war will also be the subject of The Great War In Portraits (27th February - 15th June 2014) at the National Portrait Gallery, which will examine how the war was represented through portraits of those involved, from Winston Churchill to Wilfred Owen. The exhibition will feature work from the Royal College of Surgeons, who also have their own display later in the year at the Hunterian Museum.

War, Art And Surgery (14th October 2014 - 14th February 2015) features striking pastels of wounded servicemen by surgeon-artist Henry Tonks as well as contemporary work by artist Julia Midgley, who used unprecedented access to military facilities to create over 150 pieces of reportage artwork representing military surgeons in training and recently wounded soldiers on their road to recovery.

Tate Modern offers 100 Years Later: Conflict, Time, Photography (from 19th November 2014), which will look at how the relationship between photography and battlefields changes over time. While another angle on the war comes at the Wiener Library, where German Jews And The First World War (4th June - 2nd October) will examine the experience of German Jews during and after a war in which many German Jews served with distinction.

War Artists At Sea (February 2014 - February 2015) at the Queen's House in Greenwich will showcase the best of the National Maritime Museum's collection of First World War paintings, showing naval life during the conflict. Contemporary artists will also explore the subject of war - This Time In History: What Escapes (March - November 2014) at the V&A sees artist Rose Frain reflect on 1914 with an installation that uses objects from the museum's collection, while Rozanne Hawksley: War And Memory (May - November 2014) examines the nature and meaning of the commemoration of war through textiles.


World War I: Cartoons, Music and Gardens

War Music: Notes From The First World War

War Music: Notes From The First World War


Your Country Needs You: World War I In Cartoons And Comics (June - September 2014) at the Cartoon Museum will show how the war was covered by comic artists, while the British Library's Enduring War: Grief, Grit And Humour (19th July - 12th October 2014) showcases letters and diaries from serving soldiers and their relations.

A further intriguing take comes at War Music: Notes From The First World War (22nd April 2014 - 21 March 2015) at the Royal Academy of Music, which examines the way music was used, written, recorded and experienced in the war, both at home and in Europe, and includes the fascinating information that during the war the Academy itself replaced all German pianos with English ones.

The Garden Museum will also take an unusual slant on war with Gardens And War (September-December), which will examine how the garden is utilised in wartime. Sticking with the garden theme, even the Chelsea Flower Show (20th - 24th May 2014) - held in the grounds of the Chelsea Royal Hospital, which was built by Christopher Wren for retired servicemen and is still used for that purpose - will be marking the centenary with a garden by Help For Heroes in the shape of a Military Cross.


World War I: Theatre And Ballet

English National Ballet: Lest We Forget

English National Ballet: Lest We Forget


The war will also be remembered on stage, most notably with a production of Joan Littlewood's musical satire Oh What A Lovely War! (1st February - 15th March 2014) at Theatre Royal Stratford East starring Caroline Quentin, and Versailles (20th February - 5th April 2014) at the Donmar Warehouse, looking at the impact of the Treaty that ended the war on a middle-class family from Kent. Shakespeare's Globe will stage Dr Scroggy's War (from 12th September 2014), following 19-year-old Jack Twigg on his journey to the trenches of the First World War and back.

In dance, the English National Ballet will present Lest We Forget (2nd - 12th April) at the Barbican, a contemporary commemoration of the war, while in music The Tallis Scholars: War And Peace (14th May 2014) at Cadogan Hall features sacred works by Tallis, Victoria and other 15th-century contemporaries to commemorate those who lost their lives in the war.

Finally, a charity gala performance of poetry, prose and music, Never Such Innocence (14th - 15th May 2014) will be held at Australia House. Organised by Lady Lucy French in conjunction with the Australian High Commission, the piece will include the letters and diaries of Lady French's great grandfather, Field Marshal Sir John French, who led the British Army on that tragic expedition in 1914.



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