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. 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.

Voices of War and Peace

A programme of free events to commemorate the outbreak of the First World War

2 - 4 August, 2014


Remembering 100 years ago…

August marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, 2 – 4 August. Birmingham plays host to a number of events over the anniversary weekend with further events planned throughout the anniversary years up until 2018, ensuring that we honour and remember those who fought and died in the First World War.

Minimum Monument by Néle Azevedo – presented by Birmingham Hippodrome With support from Arts Council England and William A Cadbury Charitable Trust

Saturday 2nd August, 1pm onwards

Chamberlain Square

Brazilian artist Néle Azevedo creates a mesmerising display of over 5,000 figures made out of ice. Minimum Monument deliberately celebrates the common man, honouring not only those who fought in WW1 but all those who contributed, including families who made a sacrifice.

Music, Poetry and Remembrance Commemorating the First World War.

Sunday 3 August, 12-6pm

Victoria and Chamberlain Squares

A full day’s entertainment programme, opening with Charlie Chaplin silent movies on the big Screen in Victoria Square and performances from The Midlands Military Community Choir and the Alan Warner Band and Music Hall Show with Maggie O’Hara. There will also be Living History displays, Military displays by the Armed Forces and craft workshops. The Gold medal winning Chelsea Flower Show First World War themed display will be open to the public.

Candlelight Vigil

Monday 4 August, 5.30pm – 11pm

Birmingham Cathedral, Colmore Row

Visitors to the Cathedral will hear a beautiful mix of words, music and silence. The vigil will be led by the Cathedral clergy and in the final hour, there will be a live ‘big screen link-up’ with the service at Westminster Abbey. Visitors are very welcome to enter and leave the vigil at any time during the evening. The event will be part of Lights Out 14-18 which is a UK wide event which aims to have one light on at 11pm to mark the time at which war was declared on Germany in 1914.


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

May 2014

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

Finger, Trigger, Bullet, Gun

Stan's Cafe and Nenad ProkiĆ

Birmingham REP

2 - 4 July 2014

A Bosnian Serb finger pulled the trigger of the gun that started the First World War but who put the bullet in that gun? As Stan’s Cafe complete the process of remorselessly standing thousands of hand drawn dominoe figures in a precarious chain, we are taken behind closed doors in Berlin, Vienna and Belgrade to watch a conspiracy being built, a conspiracy that will lead to Sarajevo, a date with the Archduke and that that gun loaded with that bullet having its trigger pulled by that finger. This short, taut play has been written especially for Stan’s Cafe by the Award Winning Serbian playwright Nenad ProkiĆ.

For more details please visit:

World War One and D-Day Commemorative Concert

The Old Rep Theatre

Sat 5 July at 20:00

To commemorate the centenary of World War One and the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

The Don Mather Big Band and vocalist Gary Lewis. Songs from Colin Jordan and Mark Carter and The Midlands Military Community Choir.

Music of the times will feature Glenn Miller and Classic War Movie themes including 'The Dam Busters', 'The Longest Day' and '633 Squadron'.

Box Office - 0121 245 4455

The Old Rep Theatre website

Preparing for War

Black Country Living Museum

Tue 22 July – Sun 31 August

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

August 2014

Civic events

Victoria Square and Chamberlain Square

Sunday 3rd August
12pm - 6pm

A day of music, poetry and remembrance to commemorate the First World War. There will be a performance from the The Military Wives Choir (Stafford), screenings of silent movies, Living History Displays, Military Displays by the Armed Forces and craft workshops.

Candlelight vigil

Monday 4th August

Birmingham Cathedral

5.30pm – 11.00pm

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 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

Black Country Living Museum

Sat 30 August

A day of street theatre, storytelling and music based in the historic village, 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

September 2014

Unfinished Remembering – Birmingham Bach Choir

Symphony Hall

13th September, 7.30pm

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

Voices of War

29 September - 31 December

Library of Birmingham

The Voices of War exhibition will consider how the First World War was experienced by the people of Birmingham, drawing on the rich archive, photography and special collections of the Library of Birmingham. Focusing on the stories of local men, women and children the exhibition will explore a number of themes including the experiences of men at the Front, the war’s impact on children and families, the contribution of black and Asian soldiers from across the empire, the changing role of women on the Home Front, Birmingham’s industrial support for the war effort, and debates around patriotism and pacifism in the city. The exhibition will be complemented by a programme of talks and events, online resources, and an accompanying book.

Library of Birmingham website

October 2014

City at War/Voice at War

Archives, Heritage, and Photography, 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.

Library of Birmingham 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

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

Town Hall

9 November 2014 then touring

Town Hall Symphony Hall website

December 2014

Christmas Truce

20th December

Library of Birmingham Amphitheatre

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

Commemorative performance by Birmingham Cathedral Choir and Frankfurt City Choir

Saturday 20th December

City centre

Singing “Silent Night” to remember the cessation of hostilities during the war when both sides joined together on Christmas Eve 1914 to play a game of football.


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