Giving Forces children a voice through creativity and the arts

//Giving Forces children a voice through creativity and the arts

30th September 2020

In this blog Katie Salari, Director of Operations for Never Such Innocence, talks about the charity’s work to give military children and young people a platform to share their experiences and stories, and the 2020/2021 call for competition entries.

In 2014, as Remembrance activities for the Centenary of the First World War began to take place, Lady Lucy French, saw that young people needed to have an opportunity to play their part in marking this important anniversary. Never Such Innocence (NSI) was formed and set off on a UK wide tour, engaging young people through poetry, art and song on the topic of Remembrance. NSI held poetry and songwriting workshops with schoolchildren at the far north of Scotland at RAF Lossiemouth, the far south on the HMS Iron Duke and everywhere in between. Service and civilian children were invited to engage in the history of the First World War through hands-on experiences and special events.

They created powerful poems and songs which were performed in front of distinguished members of the community, truly allowing for their voices to be heard during the Centenary. At Remembrance services across the UK, young people who participated in the programme could be heard reading their poems, even at Westminster Abbey in 2018 in front of thousands. As a finale, winners from NSI’s annual international creative arts competition were invited to Buckingham Palace for a special tea party to celebrate their achievements.

To allow young people to learn more about the First World War, NSI created a child friendly book using poetry, illustrations and real-life stories and characters. The book explores the different stages of the war and topics such as spies, women at the front, objectors, and the animals that played their part, to provide young people with a rounded view and a new perspective on the momentous events that unfolded between 1914 and 1919. Historian Dan Snow states in the foreword,

‘The war changed Britain and the world. Only by understanding it and the consequences can we make sense of the world around us today. This resource produced by Never Such Innocence gives us an excellent account of the war, its effect on society, art and culture. It is a great place for young people to start learning and engaging with our shared history.’

NSI is currently inviting service children and young people aged five to eighteen, to have their voices heard through their Voices of Armed Forces Children project, allowing them to reflect on what it means to them to have their mum, dad, uncle, aunt, granny, grandpa, brother, sister or guardian serve in the Armed Forces. Not only do service children have an opportunity to share their thoughts, the project allows families to have open conversations about how their children might be feeling. A couple of weeks before their dad was set to deploy, one such family sat around the table and started talking about what was coming. The children were invited to draw and write what they were feeling. The work they created was powerful and enabled the family to have an important conversation, which brought them closer than they had ever felt. Not only was the immediate family impacted, but it was uplifting to the extended family too.

Additionally, NSI has just launched their 2020/21 International Competition, which invites young people to share ‘The Unheard Voices of Conflict: Stories from Around the World’. This could include a personal family story (see the painting ‘Grandad’ by Charlie Redmond), the perspective of people from a defeated army, refugees fleeing from their homes, or animals caught in the midst of conflict. Alternatively, entries might be inspired by figures that young people read about in the books they receive from Reading Force! Deadline for entries is 19th March 2021.

NSI will be holding poetry and songwriting workshops in the coming months in partnership with Reading Force. Be sure to keep your eyes open to see if a workshop is held in your area!