Cheshire East Reflects draws to an emotive close
Thousands of people turned out to reflect on the hardships, losses and untold stories of the First World War, as Cheshire East Council’s four-year programme of commemorative activity came to a close over the weekend.
The local authority’s ‘When the Light Goes Out’ events (part of the Cheshire East Reflects programme) brought memories, performances and sounds to events in Crewe town centre and at Tatton Park in Knutsford.
Marking 100 years since the Armistice took place, as darkness fell on Remembrance Sunday, the front of Tatton Park Mansion was transformed into a vast ticking timepiece.
Created by digital artists Illuminos, ‘Keeping Watch’ featured hundreds of letters written by local school children to Cheshire soldier Arthur Greg, of Quarry Bank Mill.
As the sounds of Crewe Male Voice Choir echoed out, visitors also stopped to listen to monologues about refugee and Commonwealth participation in the war and paused for a moment to hear stories of heartbreak.
They watched games being played and dance and movement pieces being performed by young people from Bexton Primary School, Minerva Arts and Amy Greenhalgh Dance.
A formal ceremony – led by Cheshire East mayor Lesley Smetham, archdeacon of Macclesfield Ian Bishop and Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire David Briggs – then brought the event to a close with the extinguishing of the commemorative flame, which has burned since 2014.
Cllr Rachel Bailey, leader of Cheshire East Council, said: “To our knowledge, this council is the only local authority in the UK to have delivered a sustained programme of commemorative events since 2014 – something we are very proud to have achieved.
“In total, Cheshire East Reflects has seen participation from more than 30,000 people, including 3,000 pupils from 51 schools.
“Our final two events were extremely moving and a fitting close to what has been a truly Cheshire East-wide programme.
“I’d like to thank everyone who helped to put these, and all other past events, together for their tremendous efforts – ensuring that those who gave their lives in the Great War will never be forgotten.”
The When the Light Goes Out events were attended by more than 4,000 people.
Crewe town centre
The event in Crewe, held on Saturday 10th November, was launched with the emotive sound of pealing church bells – the first time in five years that they had been heard across the town.
The 10 bells at Christ Church had been silent since October 2013 but, following a programme of work to establish their state of repair, they were brought back into use as part of the Ringing Remembers campaign.
The initiative was part of a national effort to train new bell ringers in memory of the 1,400 bell ringers who lost their lives in the Great War.
Bell ringers from across Cheshire came together to ring a 15-minute piece, signalling the start of a parade inspired by Crewe’s 1918 Tank Week – a fundraising campaign from the government, which saw tanks touring England’s towns and cities.
Professional theatre makers Yet Another Carnival created the parade, working with more than 180 primary school children, a community chorus, the Salvation Army’s homeless cafe and local artists.
Its centrepiece was a bamboo tank adorned with candle holders and poppies. As the tank moved around the town, small pop-up performances took place and ‘tank officers’ encouraged people to join the war effort.
In Market Square primary school children performed dance and movement pieces, exploring what it might have felt like to be a child in Crewe 100 years ago.
The parade finished with a street concert in Memorial Square, featuring performances by The Peace Choir of St Mary’s Catholic Primary School, in Crewe, TCTC Group Band and Foden’s Band.
Cllr Simon Yates, leader of Crewe Town Council, said: “I’m sure the town is overjoyed that the bells rang out once again from Christ Church for Armistice weekend and I applaud all those involved in making that happen.
“It added an extra-special element to the rest of the weekend’s commemorative events in Crewe.”
The work to enable longer-term bell ringing, or alternative use for Christ Church in Crewe, is ongoing.
A project team made up of representatives from the Diocese of Chester, Cheshire East Council and Crewe Town Council has now completed a project viability report, funded in part by the Architectural Heritage Fund.
Cheshire East Reflects
Through the Cheshire East Reflects programme, more than 400 children and young people achieved their Discover Arts Award.
Numerous events and activities have taken place, providing opportunities for communities across Cheshire East to learn more about those who lived and served during the conflict.
Other activities included the digitisation of collections from Cheshire Archives, making them more accessible to the public, and funding being provided to Cheshire Roll of Honour to research all fallen soldiers from Cheshire.
More information can be found at: www.cheshireeastreflects.com