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Committee launch inquiry into Lessons from the First World War Centenary

19 February 2019

The Lessons from the First World War Centenary inquiry will examine the impact of the commemorations that spanned four years, in particular the focus on arts and education initiatives over a more traditional approach that sought to connect a younger generation with the legacy of the War.


MPs will consider the success of the commemorations which were announced by the then Prime Minister David Cameron in 2012 and draw conclusions on what can be learned from the use of the programmes and events that underpinned them. The Committee will also look at how the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport co-ordinated its commemoration activity both across Government and with external public bodies, as well as how contemporary culture can be linked to heritage and memorials.

The Committee is seeking evidence about local projects that were inspired by the commemorations and the extent of community involvement.

The programme included a national arts programme run by 14-18 Now, national commemorative events to mark the anniversary of the start of the war in 2014, the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 2016 and Armistice Day in 2018, the refurbishment of World War One galleries at the Imperial War Museum in London, funding to enable school pupils to visit battlefields, and community projects to enable young people to explore local heritage of the First World War.

Chair's comment

Damian Collins MP, Chair of the DCMS Committee, said:

“The legacy of the First World War is too important to be lost to the generations that follow. Without any surviving veterans to tell their own stories there was a risk that the sacrifices of the millions who died in the war could be consigned to history, unknown by young people today.

“The approach to these commemorations was unique – whether the display of thousands of ceramic poppies at the Tower of London, or Danny Boyle's Pages of the Sea with images of soldiers who never returned being washed away on beaches. Seeing the face of poet Wilfred Owen being slowly erased by the tide at Folkstone is something that I'll never forget. The film They Shall Not Grow Old by Peter Jackson brought the trenches to life for millions in cinemas and schools.

“The DCMS Committee wants to use this opportunity to evaluate how successful it has been to use arts and community projects over more traditional ways of commemorating significant national anniversaries, and what lessons we can draw from that.”

Terms of Reference

The Committee seeks written submissions that address the following issues:

  • How were arts programmes leveraged to engage new audiences who may not otherwise have been aware of, or engaged in, commemorations? Was using the arts more effective than a traditional approach to commemoration?
  • The Centenary commemorations aimed to reach school children and young people to connect them to the events and legacy of the First World War. To what extent did this happen?
  • Did the commemorations inspire new community and volunteer involvement and engagement in the legacy of the First World War?
  • How effective was the distribution of events across the UK? Were all regions and nations fully able to participate?
  • The Government and Lottery distributors made £50million available for the Centenary commemorations. Was this money spent effectively?
  • How well connected were cultural organisations taking part in the Centenary? What role did the First World War Centenary Partnership play? How sustainable are the partnerships now that the commemorations have come to an end?
  • What are the overall lessons that can be learned for using the arts for commemoration, public participation in the arts, and volunteer involvement in local heritage initiatives?

Submitting evidence

The Committee invites evidence from the public, organisations and others with relevant expertise, on the terms of reference. The deadline for submitting evidence is Friday 15 March at 5pm.

Written evidence to the inquiry can be submitted via the evidence portal.

Each submission should:

  • be no more than 3,000 words in length
  • be in Word format with as little use of colour or logos as possible
  • have numbered paragraphs

Further information regarding submitting evidence to Committees: Guide to submitting evidence.

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