Birmingham City Council

First World War Commemorations 2014-19

Birmingham’s cultural and academic attractions have been planning First World War commemorations. There are many exhibitions, performances and events already in place and the planning continues to ensure that Birmingham honours and remembers those that fought and died in the Great War.

Art venues, theatres, academic institutions, museums, arts centres, associations and Birmingham City Council have come together to create a rich programme of cultural events and activities to commemorate the 100th anniversary on World War One. Additionally, The Black Country Living Museum and The Wolverhampton Grand Theatre will also be taking part in the programme.

Civic events will take place the weekend of 3rd August, including a two minutes’ silence. Most of the events confirmed so far will take place in 2014/15 but further events will be programmed up to 2018 as part of the commemoration. This page will be updated to reflect any changes or additions.

January 2014

Roads to War (lecture series)

Centre for First World War Studies, University of Birmingham

17.30 – 19.00pm

  • 28 January
  • 4 February
  • 11 February
  • 4 March
  • 11 March
  • 18 March 2014

March 2014

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks (stage version)

Birmingham Repertory Theatre

17 - 22 March

Birdsong is the hit, critically acclaimed stage show based on the world famous novel by Sebastian Faulks. In pre-war France, a young Englishman Stephen Wraysford embarks on a passionate and dangerous affair with the beautiful Isabelle Azaire that turns their world upside down. As the war breaks out over the idyll of his former life, Stephen must lead his men through the carnage of the Battle of the Somme and through the sprawling tunnels that lie deep underground. Faced with the unprecedented horror of the war Stephen clings to the memory of Isabelle as his world explodes around him.

Birmingham Repertory Theatre website

Talk prior to matinee performance of Birdsong

22 March, 13:00

Dr. Emily Mayhew

Birmingham Repertory Theatre website

The Two Worlds of Charlie F (play)

Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

26th – 29th March 2014

In the centenary anniversary of the outbreak of World War 1, the play The Two Worlds of Charlie F, which was first performed in January 2012 at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, will start a new UK tour in 2014. The tour, which will be supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, will be supporting The Royal British Legion by raising funds at each performance. It will be performed by medically discharged military personnel, as well as professional actors.

Official website

@CharlieF_Tour on twitter

Facebook page

April 2014

Blakesley Hall and the First World War – A Family’s Tale (exhibition)

12 April until 2 November, Blakesley Hall

Thomas Merry and his wife Elizabeth lived at Blakesley Hall from 1901 to 1932. Their three children all played a part in the struggle of First World War. The exhibition will look specifically at this family’s story, exploring the experiences of Tom and Frank, who were soldiers, and May, who was a Red Cross nurse.

Workshop for schools are available.

Birmingham Museums website

War Correspondents

Birmingham Repertory Theatre

26 - 27 April

The much-anticipated world premiere of the second song theatre performance from composer Helen Chadwick and choreographer Steven Hoggett (Frantic Assembly, Black Watch) marks the centenary of the First World War. Whilst reporting the outbreak of war, a journalist is held at gunpoint, caught in the no-man’s land between two nations. Testimonies, music and physicality fuse into a powerful, multi-disciplined song cycle performance which depicts the extraordinary stories and life changing experiences of war journalists – men and women who risk their lives in extreme circumstances.

Birmingham Repertory Theatre website

May 2014

Birmingham City Council Chelsea Flower Show entry

Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo

Birmingham Repertory Theatre

19 - 24 May

Private Peaceful relives the life of Private Tommo Peaceful, a young First World War soldier awaiting the firing squad at dawn. During the night he looks back at his short but joyful past growing up in rural Devon: his exciting first days at school; the accident in the forest that killed his father; his adventures with Molly, the love of his life; and the battles and injustices of war that brought him to the front line.

Birmingham Repertory Theatre website

June 2014

'An Adaptable Trade’: The Jewellery Quarter and the First World War (exhibition)

Museum of the Jewellery Quarter

14 June 2014 until June 2015

In 1914 over 70,000 people were employed in jewellery industries in the Jewellery Quarter. The outbreak of the First World War changed this, and the jewellery industry had to adapt quickly. The exhibition, located in the temporary exhibition gallery at MJQ, will cover the following themes: recruitment in the Jewellery Quarter, adaptation of industry, the changing role of women, and post war disability and employment.

Birmingham Museums website

Lecture series

Birmingham Branch Western Front Association

Bedford Suite, Sutton Coldfield Town Hall, 14:00

  • 21 June
  • 19 July
  • 16 August
  • 20 September
  • 18 October
  • 15 November
  • 20 December

Talks are open to non-members for a small donation on the door. Themes include: Causes of the War, Raising the New Armies, Birmingham 1914 from Sarajevo to raising the City Battalions and The Christmas Truce.

July 2014

Preparing for War

Black Country Living Museum

Tue 22 Jul – Sun 31 Aug

Throughout the school summer holidays Black Country Living Museum will be inviting kids to get involved in drills, giving demonstrations of 1914 cookery and offering other crafty events that will allow young and old alike to join in the commemorations of WWI.

Black Country Living Museum website

India and the First World War (exhibition)

Acorns Hospice, Selly Oak

Historial re-enactment by Swanshurst School

Kings Heath Village Square

28 July

Kings Heath Village Square will witness the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand as part of a dramatic re-enactment of the causes of the First World War.

August 2014

City Centre Parade

3rd August

A parade through city centre squares to commemorate the outbreak involving military groups and local businesses.

Two Minutes Silence

4th August 2014

City Centre

Soldiers' Stories: Birmingham and the Royal Warwickshire Regiment 1914-1918 (Exhibition)

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

2 August

Birmingham has long been one of the principal recruiting areas for the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, now the Royal Warwickshire Fusiliers. This exhibition will explore the experiences of some of the Birmingham men who served with the Regiment between 1914 and 1918 using personal objects, medals and memorabilia. It will focus on the logistics of recruitment and training in the city, some of the key military battles in which the Regiment engaged in, daily life of the solider, and how the men were commemorated at the end of the war. The exhibition draws heavily on collector Dave Vaux’s extensive collection, but will also feature objects and oral histories from the museum’s collection.

Birmingham Museums website

Minimum Monument

Chamberlain Square

2nd August 2014

Brazilian artist Nele Azevedo, creates an unusual public art exhibit with more than 1,000 figures made out of ice. The public are invited to place the sculptures on the steps of Chamberlain Square and over two to three hours the ice figures begin to melt. Nele’s work deliberately celebrates the common man, this piece will be about honouring not only those who fought in the war but the families of those whose who sacrificed their loved ones or were affected.

Candlelit Commemoration

Black Country Living Museum

4 August

This evening service of reflection will be centred around the Museum’s Chapel and the War Memorial (the wider museum site will not be open). Admission will be free of charge but by pre-booked ticket only.

Black Country Living Museum website

Summer 1914

Black Country Living Museum

Sat 30 August

Join us for a day of street theatre, storytelling and music based in the historic village. We will be evoking the atmosphere of the summer of 1914 and exploring how the start of the war affected ordinary people in the Black Country. There will be hands on activities for kids.

Black Country Living Museum website


Tolkien and the Great War (exhibition)

Sarehole Mill

September 2014 until October 2014

Tolkien enlisted in 1915 and fought in France and it is believed that this experience deeply affected the writer. Second Lieutenant in the Lancashire fusiliers he trained on Cannock Chase before going to France on 4 June 1916, and was at the Somme in October 1916. He was sent home with Trench Fever in November 1916.

A School at War (exhibition)

King Edward’s School

September 2014 until November 2018

A look at the contribution of KES old boys and staff and the impact of the FWW on the school. Pupils from KES and partner primary schools will explore the role, experience and life expectancy of the junior officer by examining archive records and exploring the many stories of selected staff and pupils. The effect of the war on Tolkien and his writing will be examined. War poetry written by OEs will feature in the exhibition, as will the contribution of colonial forces.

Unfinished Remembering – Birmingham Bach Choir

Symphony Hall

13th September, 7.30pm

Event 'Unfinished Remembering' a concert to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. A new choral symphony by Euan Tait and Paul Spicer. Also on the programme 'Dona Nobis Pacem by Vaughan Williams and 'A Shared Singing' performed by Birmingham's new Military Choir. With the Orchestra of the Swan and distinguished soloists.

Town Hall Symphony Hall website

Sam Lee and The Unthanks

Town Hall or Symphony Hall

15-20 September

A project to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the war through the more personal stories unearthed in folk music.

Town Hall Symphony Hall website

Autumn 2014

Ben Waddington and Still Walking

A series of five commissioned walks around themes including Duty, Memorial, Civic Pride are being planned.

Town Hall Symphony Hall website

Black Poppies

The Drum

A ‘Kalaboration’ project run by The Drum and Birmingham Institute of Arts & Design, exploring critical dialogues between art and war, and responding to the heritage of British war art according to contemporary theories of conflict and its visualisation.

The Drum website

Colonies to Commonwealth (film)

The Drum

A series of community debates, built around film screenings and panel discussions, exploring the historical nuances of the 1914-18 war and its wider geographical and political contexts in more depth.

The Drum website

Some Foreign Field (performance)

The Drum

The regional launch of a major anthology of poetry, with poets from a range of cultural backgrounds, including internationally renowned authors, reinterpreting and responding to the cultural treasure trove that is the poetry of the Great War.

The Drum website

Remembering Aston

The Drum

A project involving young people from Aston ward, using archives, storytelling and digital media to stimulate research and creativity. Young people will interview family members to explore what Aston was like in 1914, adding to our picture of how Birmingham was affected by the Great War.

The Drum website


City at War/Voice at War

Birmingham Archives and Heritage, Library of Birmingham

October 2014 – January 2015

Series of events and displays including an exhibition in the Library of Birmingham, community engagement with a range of groups, online learning resources and a small publication featuring resources held by Libraries and Archives, drawing on our archive, photography and war poetry collections. This programme will be structured around 5 or so themes: War and Empire - including black and Asian servicemen; War and Industry - how a range of local industries supported the war; Women and War - particularly war service and political engagement; Children, families and fatherhood - the impact of loss and disability as reflected in archive collections to do with social welfare in the period; Pacifism, patriotism and debates around participation - drawing on the Lloyd family papers and the Quaker archive collections.

Birmingham Archives and Heritage website

Rebel Visions: Constructions of War and Conflict in the Work of C.R.W. Nevinson (exhibition)

The Barber Institute

24th October 2014 to January 2015

C.R.W. Nevinson was a British artist whose name has become inextricably associated with representation of war. Inspired by the Barber’s acquisition, in 2010, of the print Returning to the Trenches, 1916 this exhibition is on the construction of war and conflict in Nevinson’s work. Concentrating on a selection of paintings, drawings and prints, and engaging with the themes of war and conflict, the interpretation of the exhibition has two main aims. Firstly, to explore, in relation to the destabilising effects of war on the stratification of British society, the distinctly diverse meanings and values which were constructed by Nevinson’s work produced during the period 1914-18. Secondly, including examples of post-war works, the exhibition will also examine how the themes of war and conflict continued to inspire the artist throughout the remainder of his life. The show will bring together works from public collections, including examples from Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the Tate Britain, the British Museum and the National Gallery of Canada, as well as well as private collections.

The Barber Institute website

November 2014

Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain – Popular Music from World War One

Town Hall

9 November 2014 then touring

Town Hall Symphony Hall website

Fine Art Symposium

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

November 2014 or January 2015 tbc

BMAG will host a study day, in collaboration with University of Birmingham, Ikon, and the Barber Institute, with renowned academic speakers discussing potential themes such as women, art and the First World War.

Birmingham Museums website

December 2014

Christmas Truce

20th December

Library of Birmingham Amphitheatre

An event symbolising the Christmas truce between the Allies and the Germans.


Our Lady of Peace: Narratives of Peace in Artworks by Evelyn De Morgan (1900-1919) (Exhibition)

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

January to April 2015

In 1900 Evelyn De Morgan (1855-1919) began a series of paintings and drawings inspired by war. ‘Our Lady of Peace’ will exam De Morgan’s increasing preoccupation with the theme of war throughout the final two decades of her life, which culminated in a large body of works engaging with the circumstances of the first world war from a pacifist perspective. De Morgan’s close associations with other artists, including Birmingham artists, demonstrate a cross-fertilization of ideas amongst a network of like-minded individuals. The exhibition reveals how artists used a complex series of allegories and symbols, to construct and disseminate, through public display, a pacifist narrative that was intended to counteract dominant discourses endorsing war as justified.

Birmingham Museums website

Wounded by Jenny Stephens (play)

Birmingham Repertory Theatre

1917: wounded soldiers injured in the Great War are nursed in a Birmingham hospital. Now times have changed and 94 years on the injured soldier being treated in the same military hospital is Kate Mulligan, a Combat Medical Technician. Wracked with guilt that she caused her own injuries and the life threatening injuries of another soldier who tried to save her, Kate begins to experience strange goings on. Perhaps it's the shock or maybe, just maybe Kate really can see and hear Private Alfred Seddon.

The two soldiers, a century apart, remember and revisit their experiences, allowing them to explore their trauma and help each other recover. Emotional, heartfelt and intriguing, Wounded is a ghostly story, of two people coping with the aftermath of trauma.

Town Hall Symphony Hall website

Spring 2015

Quaker Aspects of the First World War (curated by Woodbrooke Centre for Post Graduate Quaker Studies)

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

The Quaker Aspects of the First World War is collaboration of the Central England Area Meeting of the Society of Friends (Quakers), Central England Peace Committee of the Society of Friends, Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre and the Centre for Postgraduate Quaker Studies. The project aims to tell the stories of the Quakers of Birmingham and the West Midlands during the First World War. These include stories of the anti-conscription work that was based in Birmingham; the forming and training of the Friends’ Ambulance Unit and the experiences of the individuals who served in the FAU; the struggles of conscience which challenged so many Quaker young men and sometimes split families and Meetings as some chose conscientious objection while others joined up; the way in which the war affected Cadbury’s and other Quaker businesses; and the work of the Friends Emergency and War Victims Relief Committee both during and after the war.

Birmingham Museums website


The West Indies and Africa at the Front (curated by Recognize)

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

The West Indies and Africa at the Front will tell the unique story of the African Caribbean contribution to the First World War objects will include: battle standards of the BWI as well as artefacts, uniforms, replica weapons, campaign medals and letters from families and soldiers.

Birmingham Museums website