Brian Sharp*, author, publisher and Old Hempsteadian, in conjunction with Goldsmiths University, recently initiated a competition for students across south London.

Brian says: “It was late 2012, and I was reading a book on the WW1 poets, their lives and in some cases, their tragic deaths. It occurred to me that it might be a good idea to get youngsters interested in the events of 1914-18 through creative activities, like writing poetry and short stories, art, music, photography and so on. At that point, I contacted Richard Grayson, Professor and head of history at Goldsmiths, University of London. Those of our era will no doubt remember his Dad, Don Grayson at HHGS. Particularly the boys, as he was a first-rate cricketer. Richard and I worked on the plan, and the result can be seen in this recent article in the South London Press.”.

The competition encouraged the students to show off their creative skills to help mark the Great War. They were required to express what that conflict means to them now.

Those of us who were around at the time of the Second World War probably thought that conflict was the war to end all world wars, today we probably think of that assumption as being correct but so did our fathers after 1918. My history lessons at Hemel Hempstead Grammar School ended at the year 1914 therefore I would say that my only knowledge of the 1914-1918 world war has been through the writings of Sebastian Faulks which were encouraged by the television series “Birdsong”.

The competition, “The Goldsmiths World War One Creative Awards”, was sponsored by Lewisham Council and the first three places were awarded cash prizes at a recent ceremony at the New Cross university.

Vikki Prescott, English teacher at one of the participating schools, said: “This has been a brilliant project. It made our pupils realise that this is still a huge issue – although it took place 100 years ago it still matters today.”

* Brian’s book, “In These Eyes”, is highlighted in the “Books by Old Hempsteadians” section of the website.


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