"As the person who put in the application for funding to remember the Chilwell Munitions Tragedy, here is my perspective on how it all went.
First sincere and grateful thanks to the HLF for sponsoring this project.
At the time of the application I was the Mayor of the Borough of Broxtowe. This coincided with a great deal of activity within the Borough to remember WW1. I approached Andy Barrett of Excavate to discuss the possibility of developing a project that examined the Chilwell Munitions Tragedy, which I thought would be a very suitable project for my mayoral year. This led to meetings with Andy and the leaders of several local groups, including the Bramcote and Stapleford Golden Jubilee Group, which I happen to chair, and the end result was an application to the HLF from that group for the funding for the project. As it happens, the main activities did not take place until after the end of my mayoral year, but that is an irrelevance really.
Having obtained the funding Andy and Excavate set out in earnest to produce something that turned out to be a wholly appropriate remembrance of the tragic event in which 147 people lost their lives in an explosion in Chilwell on 1 July 1918.
The first activity was to put up a Facebook page to attract attention to the project, which proved to be very popular indeed. This grew as time went by with text, pictures and recordings (see below).
A special stall was manned during the Hemlock Happening held on 4 June, an event that attracted many thousands of people, so as to help advertise the project.
Then there were interviews with people identified through the Facebook page and also by word of mouth, who had recollections of the tragedy; these were recorded and made available through the Facebook page. They also formed part of the performances in Beeston Square (see below). As I understand it, the recordings will continue to be made available through the Facebook page and also through the Excavate website.
Andy wrote the script of a play to commemorate the event, people were recruited including local community actors and others with little or no experience of performances (including me), rehearsals were held in the upstairs room of a local public house, materials relevant to the play were purchased or borrowed, and the play was performed five times in Beeston Square over two days.
It was July and the sun shone and many hundreds of people learned about the events of 1918, many for the first time. The story enfolded of how the Munitions Factory came to be built in Chilwell, the people who worked there, many of whom were women, and the explosion and its aftermath. The reaction was amazingly positive and many people were more than complementary. Some found the names of their own relatives on the “cards” that were hung on a line during the play to remember all those who lost their lives. It was a very moving experience for all involved.
But this is not all. An exhibition was created of all that happened and this was on display in Beeston Square during the performances. This will be retained and put up on display again in 2018 at the centenary of the tragedy.
A simplified version of the performance was held by half a dozen of the “actors”, in The White Lion as part of a programme of talks and performances that examined not only the work at the Chilwell factory, but also the story of conscientious objectors during the First World War.
There was a special showing of a film on the tragedy, and Chilwell Barracks became very involved in the project. Not only did they mount their own exhibition and open the site so that those who wished to see the memorial to those who died were able to do so, but they also contributed the seating for the performance in the town square.
In summary, I believe that a huge amount of activity and interest was generated as a consequence of the HLF having the confidence to invest in the idea that was put forward. I am proud to have been associated with the application and all that happened in consequence."