This summer a new kind of war memorial will be made by people from all over the UK. ‘Letter To An Unknown Soldier’ is a project commissioned by 14-18 NOW – a nationwide cultural programme designed to mark the centenary of World War One – and inspired by the statue which stands on Platform 1 of Paddington Station in London. Representing the millions of soldiers who died in that terrible conflict, the statue depicts an ordinary soldier, in battle dress, reading a letter. The project organisers want YOU, and your students, to contribute to the memorial by writing that letter. Every letter received will be published online, alongside some which have been written already by distinguished writers such as Malorie Blackman, David Almond, Andrew Motion, Val McDermid, Melvin Burgess, Owen Sheers, Liz Lochhead and Sita Brahmachari.
The project is lead by writer and theatre director Neil Bartlett, and Canadian author Kate Pullinger, who were keen to come up with something truly original:-
“For us, the creators of the project, it is important to move away from the usual imagery associated with war and commemoration – cenotaphs, poppies, the silence that falls over us all on Remembrance Day. What we’d like instead is to hear what you think – what you really think. If you were able to speak to the unknown soldier now, with all we’ve learned since 1914, with all your experience of life and death to hand, what would you say? We are especially keen to hear the voices of what young people think and we very much hope that schools will embrace the project across the curriculum.”
It is very easy for schools to take part in the project, and some very clear lesson plans have been created for use in a number of curriculum areas such as English, history, citizenship, creative
writing and drama. These are designed to provide teachers with a context in which they can encourage young people to reflect on such an important part of their history, and to contribute their own short piece of creative writing towards a national collection. Having their work published online, in the company of established writers and poets, provides students with an added incentive, All letters received will eventually be housed as a national archive in the British Library for the benefit of future generations.
Letters can be written online, or they can be written, scanned and uploaded. Alternatively, they can be performed to camera and submitted online, or written in the conventional manner and posted to the organisers, any time between now and the
deadline of 4th August (the date of the declaration of war in 1914). Letters will be published from 28th June and will be fully searchable by name, theme, geographical region or age group.
Organisers are also keen that schools which intend to participate should contact them via unknownsoldier@1418NOW.org.uk and tell them how they are planning to take the project forward.
For more information, and to download the age-appropriate lesson packs, visit the 14-18 NOW website at http://www.1418NOW.org.uk/letter. You will find the classroom resources under the ‘MORE’ section.