The year 2014 marks the 300th anniversary of the Georgians succeeding the House of Stuart, the 175th anniversaries of the first Grand National and Henley Royal Regatta and Dylan Thomas’s centenary. It’s also 125 years since both the Savoy and the Eiffel Tower opened, 75 years since Batman first appeared in comic strips, 60 years since Roger Bannister broke the four-minute-mile barrier, 50 years since Jean-Paul Sartre refused the Nobel Prize in Literature, 40 years since ‘-gate’ entered the lexicon due to the Watergate scandal and 25 years since the Berlin Wall came down and Salvador Dalí and Daphne du Maurier died.
All these, however, are likely to be eclipsed by plans for commemorating the start of the First World War on August 4, 1914. The BBC has committed to some 130 programmes and series-about 2,500 hours of broadcasting-over the next four years and, all over the country, heritage bodies large and small are pre-paring to mark it under the auspices of Imperial War Museums. Last month, the Government committed £5 million to maintaining war memorials and graves up to 2018.
A group of contemporary writers, artists and musicians will contribute to 14-18 NOW, a programme of official commemorations launched next month (http://1418now.org.uk) and a major public event on August 4, and Imperial War Museums (www.iwm.org.uk) has new initiatives, exhibitions and gallery spaces. ‘Our ambition is that a lot more people will come to realise that you can’t comprehend the world today unless you understand the causes, course and consequences of the First World War,’ says director-general Diane Lees.
In addition, the Wilfred Owen Association (www.wilfredowen.org.uk) and the Siegfried Sassoon Fellowship (www.sassoonfellowship.org) have joined forces with a programme of poetry events and there will be a presentation on Owen, A. E. Housman and Mary Webb during the Wenlock Poetry Festival in Shropshire on April 26-27 (www.wenlockpoetryfestival.org). This weekend, on January 11, the Bourne Hall Museum in Epsom, Surrey, is putting on ‘Terrible Trenches of WW1′, an interactive event for children. Visit www.1914.org for more information.
In two weeks’ time (January 22), Country Life, which itself provided a vivid week-by-week record of imperial Britain and its war effort from 1914 to 1918, starts a 10-week illustrated series on aspects of the First World War drawn from the magazine’s own archives.
Subjects include the world at war, the role of women, the conflict at sea, in the air and in the trenches, and what life was like for children, horses and the wounded.
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