A Story of the Great War

Helen Newall, Karen Lauke, James Macpherson

This practice-research project investigates imaginative and creative ways of interacting with archival material. The artist-academics, Prof Helen Newall and Dr Karen Lauke, have examined the Bradshaw Journal and photograph album, interpreting them through digital animation and sound.

Excerpts have been chosen from the first part of Will Bradshaw’s journal detailing his enlisting in 1914 up to the moment when he writes home after having been captured in 1918. These fragments represent a through line of the narrative in the journal, but they do not tell the whole story: the artists have brought his voice and his photographs to life: but they hope that in so doing they encourage future engagement with the journal itself because the story Will has to tell us about his experiences of the Great War is a fascinating one.

The result is A Story of the Great War, a series of short films, which explore how archives can be brought vividly to life, offering viewers an alternative way of experiencing the material, demonstrating how archives can be inspirations for creative interpretation. In the artistic responses they have made to the William Bradshaw material, the artists have come to understand it in a way that parallels the historical information that the material offers. Photographs certainly have the power to invoke emotion and help us visualise history as well as empathise with others: it is for this reason that these lines from Will’s Journal are so touching and important:

“Both the Germans and ourselves produced photographs of our respective family groups. In this way we sympathised with one another” (Bradshaw, 1920: 72 [45]).

Concept, animation and visuals: Helen Newall

Professor Helen Newall is professor of theatre Praxis, in the department of English and Creative Arts at Edge Hill University. She investigates commemoration and memory through digital animations: her miniature installation, Remember Me, animating photographs of anonymous World War soldiers, toured extensively between 2014 and 2018 to great acclaim.

Sound design: Karen Lauke

Dr Karen Lauke is a renowned sound artist and composer working in innovative acousmatic sound art, digital sound design for performance, and site-specific installation.

Voice of William Bradshaw: James Macpherson

Dr James Macpherson is artistic director of outdoor arts company, Artizani, and an accomplished and seasoned performer. He is a member of the Musical Theatre staff at Edge Hill University in the department of English and Creative Arts.

This work was enabled by the Institute for Creative Enterprise (ICE) and the Institute for Social Responsibility (ISR) at Edge Hill University.

See https://archives.edgehill.ac.uk/records/BRAD for the full digitised diary.