Glasgow Caledonian University to host First World War Heritage event

13 November 2015

Glasgow Caledonian University to host  First World War Heritage event

assembly - an installation by artist Val Carman

Students and staff at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU), and people living in the city of Glasgow and beyond, are invited to participate in a unique art project in remembrance of those who died in the First World War.

The University is hosting assembly, a touring art installation that commemorates the fallen soldiers and inspires reflection on the legacy of the war 100 years on. Members of the public are invited to share and recount stories, memories and reflections, including those of the Great War which have been passed down from their families and friends. These accounts will be recorded in a memorial book, alongside the names of more than 174,000 soldiers who died on the battlefields in Belgium.  The book will return to In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres in 2018 and become part of a special archive collection.

The installation will also feature five memorial chairs taken from Passchendaele’s St. Audomarus Church, which was the scene of one of the worst battles of the conflict. Created by Val Carman, who, in 1999, became the first artist-in-residence at Flanders Fields Museum in Belgium, assembly will be installed at GCU as part of its 16 venue tour of the UK and Ireland. To date, assembly has visited Lichfield, Gloucester, Durham and Peterborough Cathedrals.

GCU was chosen as Scotland's first venue in recognition of the contribution made by one of its founding institutions, the Glasgow and West of Scotland College of Domestic Science, during the war years.

The College trained soldier cooks who went on to be stationed on the Front Line and in Military and Red Cross Hospitals while students and staff supported families on the home front by spearheading campaigns on rationing. Public lecturers and experimental cooking, which supplemented flour with ingredients such as split peas, lentils, haricot beans, barley or rye, were taught to help families to combat food shortages caused by the German U-boat blockade campaign.

In addition, the College building in Park Drive was temporarily acquired by the Scottish Branch of the Red Cross Society and was equipped as an auxiliary hospital, providing 26 wards to accommodate 300 patients. Fundraising activities were launched by suffragist Dr Elsie Inglis to helped raise funds to support hospital beds during the duration of the war.

Artist Val Carman said: “Glasgow Caledonian University's heritage and rich archive collection demonstrate the significant role which the College played, both at home and on the Front, a role which makes it a fitting venue to host assembly.

"The chairs on display bring a familiar, tactile and simple memorial of loss from Flanders and represent the emptiness that would have been physically present within many homes and communities. The accompanying memorial book contains many names, but shows only a fraction of the total loss, and is a reminder of the immensity of the tragic events.”

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Pamela Gillies CBE FRSE added: “It is an honour to host assembly, which commemorates the centenary of the First World War and is a poignant reminder of the lives which were lost. As the University for the Common Good, we are keen to hear from our students, staff and the wider local community and to gather together the untold memories of the stories and experiences of their relatives, friends and loved ones who participated in that terrible conflict. I have been privileged to visit Ypres myself, and I am pleased that we are playing our part in ensuring that these compelling stories of sacrifice and survival are being told as widely as possible.”

assembly will officially open to the public from November 27 until February 2016 within the atrium of the University’s Centre for Executive Education (CEE).