Denis Conran, Private Collection

This exhibition, created by young people, launches the borough’s four-year commemoration of the First World War Centenary.

The exhibition focuses on the First World War heritage of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. Working with photographer Othello De Souza Hartley and designer Jasleen Kaur, young people have explored the stories and histories through people and places and the impact of the War in the locality. These stories have been brought to life through objects, artworks, creative writing and photographic recreations of narrative events.

Young people explored changes that the First World War brought to the borough. They researched into the developments that took place in the local area such as the South African hospital in Richmond Park and the huge Munitions Works called the Pelabon Works, which employed nearly 2000 Belgian refugees. The creative responses they made varied from comic strips exploring daily life to sculptures of the many shops which opened to serve the Belgian community. Other outcomes included photographic responses to social issues, such as the shortage of domestic servants.

Creative inspiration was also taken from personal and poignant stories such as the ‘canary girls’ – Munitions factory workers whose skin tuned yellow due to the chemicals they were using. They researched the lives of local soldiers such as Denis Conran who fought in the trenches and Frank Edwards who triumphantly dribbled a football during the Battle of the Loos, and found interesting ways of interpreting associated letters and artefacts.

The work on display has been made by participants aged 6 – 21. The youngest groups explored children’s contributions to the war effort such as the National Egg Collection scheme and also the animal mascots of the South African Army – ‘Jackie’ the baboon and ‘Nancy’ the springbok.

The exhibition has been funded through Heritage Lottery Fund and Richmond upon Thames council. It will be held at Orleans House Gallery, Riverside, Twickenham from 2nd August until 16th November.