Royal &Derngate, along with the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery, lead Northampton in the world of culture already. Now they have a little more leeway to do so, as the Heritage Lottery Fund has issued them a grant totaling £73,200. This money is intended to celebrate the long-awaited WWI centenary this month, and is going toward the funding of a project lasting a year and a half which will detail Northampton’s history during the war.
The abridged title of the project is to be “Conflict and Community,” and will mark the first time that the Northampton Museum has collaborated with Royal &Derngate to produce such a project. Intended not only as a historical celebration, but also as a celebration of arts and culture, the project will show citizens both how the town was affected by the war and how the nation was impacted by the town as a result.
The reasoning behind the grant is due largely to the size and scope of the project. Not much research is required, as the Northampton Museum intends to garner much of its information from accounts by second generation survivors of actual war participants. The project will encompass several aspects of the town’s history, such as the conditions on their home front, the increase of propaganda and rationing, the decrease in male workers as well as the increase in female workmanship and voting, the town’s historical cobbling industry, and the casualties suffered by civilians. It will also cover a good deal of the war’s aftermath, the Northampton Herald and Post reports.
The second-generation accounts used as sources will include letters, personal memories, and military documents. The included activities will involve the artistic realms of film and theatre as well as a new exhibit put on by the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery. This exhibit, entitled “A Shoemaker Goes to War,” will constitute one of the largest uses of the grant money. There will also be a production by Royal &Derngate to celebrate a new novel based on the war and written by Pat Barker.
Not only will the grant ensure that as many stories are told and preserved as possible, but the project itself will hopefully bring the town together as a closer-knit community sharing in each other’s histories. The two separate venues are happily anxious about working together to involve the whole of the Northampton community.
This is not by far the first grant handed out by the Heritage Lottery Fund in anticipation of the centenary. They have in fact donated a total of £47 million (and counting) to literally hundreds of cultural projects that will add to people’s understanding of WWI, with their grant to the Northampton Museum and to Royal &Derngate becoming simply one large part of a vastly larger whole, aimed toward a better understanding of the First World War and possibly war itself.