A rare public screening of the Battle of the Somme film, originally released in 1916. The documentary is significant as an early example of film propaganda, an historical record of the battle and as a popular source of footage illustrating the First World War. Seen by more than 20 million people its first six weeks of release, the film’s impact was profound enough to completely change the cinema-going habits of the British population as well as changing their views on war.
The Times reported at the time that ‘Crowded audiences ... were interested and thrilled to have the realities of war brought so vividly before them, and if women had sometimes to shut their eyes to escape for a moment from the tragedy of the toll of battle which the film presents, opinion seems to be general that it was wise that the people at home should have this glimpse of what our soldiers are doing and daring and suffering in Picardy.’
Inspired by – and in wide-ranging response to – the film itself and its historical context, poets from Lambeth’s Poetry School have composed a suite of new poems to perform, for the first time, alongside the film tonight. It will be an evening of two parts: you’ll experience the poems in the first half, then the film in the second.
The performance is conceived and produced by Simon Barraclough, and the performers are Anna Kisby, Caroline M Davies, Chrissy Williams, Eleanor Penny, Jo Young, John Haney, Patricia Ace, Roy McFarlane, Steve Kendall and Sue Burge.
The performance is The Poetry School’s contribution to the UK-wide cultural commemorations marking the centenary of the First World War.