Requiem: An Act of Remembrance

A multi-faceted project putting young people at its heart, engaging thousands of people from Great Yarmouth through a collaboration of music, art and spoken word, to commemorate the stories of local people during the First World War.

What we wanted to achieve

The First World War centenary provided opportunities across the country to raise awareness of the role played by local people in the conflict, and to connect children and young people with them.

Norfolk Museums Service, Orchestras Live and other organisations connected through the Cultural Education Partnership wanted to find ways to connect young people with the experiences of those who lived through this hugely significant chapter in our national history.

Our aims were:

  • To mark the centenary of the First World War with a ‘living heritage’ project, commemorating the lives of Great Yarmouth’s people who lived during the war.
  • To give young people a leading role in many aspects of the project.
  • To commission a female composer to create a collaborative orchestral piece with and for local young people.
  • To achieve live performances of the new piece, involving an iconic BBC orchestra alongside a large number of young people.
  • To create touring and online exhibitions to share the historical and artistic outcomes widely.

I feel like it’s a really important project. In this area there were some very important things happened like the Zeppelin raids. I had relatives who died in the war… so I feel a real connection with it.

~ Participant

What happened

Over 100 young people were involved in developing and producing creative material for the performances:

  • 49 young people worked with composer, Sarah Freestone and players from BBC Concert Orchestra, to create and rehearse musical material which would be integral to the new piece.
  • 15 young people created poetry and spoken dialogues that punctuated the piece.
  • 12 young film makers traced the process, supported by BBC Voices, and produced a documentary which formed part of an exhibition of the historical research from the project.
  • 59 young people took part in archive research workshops at Norfolk Records Office and historical workshops at Time & Tide Museum and other locations.
  • 6 young people created visual artwork that was projected during the concert to support the narrative thread and add to the atmosphere.

Young people also had the opportunity to be involved in costume design, communications and event management, gaining a range of industry skills through working alongside arts professionals. A steering group of young people, supported by youth arts network Creative Collisions, acted as a sounding board to ensure the ‘youth voice’ was prominent during the planning and production of the overall project.

A woman in costume and a headset microphone in front of a large orchestra

A local actor played the role of Mrs Yarmouth in Requiem: An Act of Remembrance with the BBC Concert Orchestra.

Credit: Stuart Bruce

Women had a massive part and I really enjoyed when we wrote about Mrs Yarmouth. You could really picture her character and imagine what her life was like…it really played a special part in the performance…especially with the Yarmouth accent.

~ Participant

Outcomes

The creative process of the project activity connected young people to their local heritage and gave them a deeper understanding of the impact of the war.

Requiem was performed by 280 young people alongside BBC Concert Orchestra to an audience of 439 including families of the young people who took part in the project, many of whom were experiencing live orchestral music for the first time.

An exhibition created by 23 young participants
includes local archival sources and a recording of the work and has toured to the participating schools and local community venues, engaging more than 6,500 people so far.

The project has strengthened the partnership between Orchestras Live and Great Yarmouth through a high-profile initiative that formed part of a growing series of site-specific collaborative commissions which Orchestras Live is co-producing nationally.

We found the event genuinely moving and it was fantastic to see talented young musicians and singers performing alongside musicians of the calibre of the BBC Concert Orchestra. This was a fantastic opportunity for the young people that will hold lasting memories for them all. It was really great to see the way in which Sarah and the musicians supported them to develop and perform to the best of their abilities.

~ Colin Stott, Norfolk Museums Service

Future plans

Requiem laid the foundations for a new sustainable programme of orchestral activity in Great Yarmouth. In the coming years there will be annual collaborative projects bringing together diverse community groups with visiting professional orchestras, a mentoring programme for local emerging musicians, promoters and ambassadors, and the introduction of world class orchestral concerts at St George’s Theatre, curated by Orchestras Live. Sarah Freestone has been invited to lead the first collaborative project, building on her inspirational work with schools and young people through Requiem.

Partners

Led by Creative Collisions and Orchestras Live, the project was achieved with Norfolk Museums Service, Norfolk Music Hub, National Centre for Writing, Norfolk Library & Information Service, Norfolk Record Office, Norfolk Youth Orchestra, Hippodrome Circus Theatre, Enjoy Great Yarmouth (LCEP), Historic England and IWM Centenary Partnership.