Imperial War Museums expands £2.5m commissioning programme

Image: Les Voyage Derry-Londonderry by Compagnie XY © Samuel Buton

Nine additional partners will be commissioned to create art inspired by the heritage of conflict

Nine UK arts organisations are each to receive £20,000 from Imperial War Museums’ (IWM) art commissioning programme to create works inspired by the heritage of conflict.

The capital comes from the IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund, created after IWM and First World War centenary arts programme 14-18 NOW worked together to co-commission the 2018 Peter Jackson film They Shall Not Grow Old.

£180,000 of the £2.5m share of the film’s royalties will back the nine new commissions, which are to go on public display across the UK between 2023 and 2025.

Jenny Waldman, formerly Director of 14-18 NOW and now Director of Art Fund, said: “The 14- 18 NOW programme of arts commissions brought stories of the First World War to over half the UK population in extraordinary and creative ways.

“The IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund continues to harness the power of art to engage new audiences with the complexities of conflict. I am inspired by the range of themes and artforms to be explored in these nine new commissions and across the programme.”

The nine organisations, selected by IWM through a competitive and open round of expressions of interest, are: Bentley Priory Museum in Stanmore, The Box in Plymouth, The Brickworks Museum in Burlesdon, Ffotogallery in Cardiff, Freedom Festival Arts Trust in Hull, The Harris Museum in Preston, Nerve Centre in Derry-Londonderry, Sweet Patootee Arts based in London, and The Unicorn Preservation Society in Dundee.

The commissions are hoped to explore conflict from the First World War to the present day.

Rebecca Newell, Head of Art for Imperial War Museums said, “The IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund builds on Imperial War Museums’ rich and longstanding history of commissioning art.

“One year into this programme, we are delighted by the diversity of exceptional arts experiences that have been created and shared with audiences. We look forward to expanding this work with artists, organisations and communities across the UK, continuing to highlight stories of conflict in engaging and creative ways.”

The commissioned projects:

Nerve Centre will work with artist Joe Caslin and young people from across Northern Ireland to create a large-scale street art installation. Including an augmented reality component, this commission will respond to the Good Friday Agreement and reconciliation in the aftermath of conflict.

At their annual festival in Hull, the Freedom Festival Arts Trust will present a multi-media installation from artist Lee Karen Stow and The Freedom Women Collective, an artist collective of women who have survived war, conflict and persecution. The artists will weave contemporary stories from Ethiopia, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Sudan using visual and textile art, sculpture, performance, poetry and photography.

The Unicorn Preservation Society has commissioned composer Michael Betteridge to create a new piece of collaborative community music to be played on HMS Unicorn, one of the oldest ships in the world. Based on the experience of Unicorn’s crew members who were sent to the Western Front, Gallipoli and the Balkans, the composition will be performed on HMS Unicorn’s own restored brass band instruments from the First World War.

Bentley Priory Museum will bring a contemporary artist into dialogue with women from the Royal Air Force and their lives and experiences.

The Box will explore the idea of home through the lens of the Falklands conflict.

Sweet Patootee Arts will produce an immersive film installation inspired by the often-neglected heritage of the British Caribbean in the Second World War.

Ffotogallery will explore the forceful expulsion of people from the Chagos Islands and themes of uprooting and relocation.

The Harris Museum’s series of murals known as the ‘Egyptian Balcony’ commissioned in 1908 will serve as inspiration for a commission on shared histories of conflict between Preston and Egypt.

The Brickworks Museum commission will focus on the rebuilding of Southampton following the Second World War.