Poppies, silence, rows of still people clutching orders of service – the country is preparing for #Armistice100, drawing to a close four years of events to mark the centenary of The Great War. St Leonards is gearing up to offer something additional.

The World is my country
PICTURE: Emily Johns

Running for eleven days leading up to Armistice Sunday, experiential theatre company ExploreTheArch and duo Gabriel Carlyle and Emily Johns are mounting vivid, alternative experiences at venues Archer Lodge and Hastings Arts Forum respectively. It’s always a challenge for peace-loving artists to know how best to respond to such occasions – how to oppose the horrors of war, while not seeming to disrespect the sacrifices made. The solution put forward by these artists is to focus on the lived experience of ordinary people.

Winding through rooms at ExploreTheArch’s villa on Charles Road, The House at Armistice is a funny, startling and poignant theatrical experience of a woman, a child, their neighbours and Great War things. The company’s paper sculptures and found object puppets are animated with Bev Lee Harling’s musicianship, this being the singer, composer and violinist’s first production with the company.

The inspiration for the production is words from an unexpected source. Recognised for his war epitaphs, Rudyard Kipling was connected to the Great War in many ways, but a curious, compassionate short story that Kipling penned late in his career is not widely known. Kipling had lost his son in the war and witnessed the suffering of women visiting war graves, including those who had made unconventional life choices. It is a restrained, remarkable work spanning a young soldier’s lifetime in ordinary, familiar terms. It stands up for those who are different.

The company are keeping their cards close to their chest by not revealing the title of the story ahead of the show, but copies of the story will be available to purchase during the production, accompanied by a free drink at the bar.

The House at Armistice runs over eleven nights from 26th October to 11th November at Archer Lodge, Charles Road, St Leonards on Sea, TN38 0QX.

Tickets are £14 with free tickets for under 19s, available from the company’s website explorethearch.com and also from independent local bookshops, The Bookkeeper (Kings Road, St Leonards) and Printed Matter Bookshop (Queens Road, Hastings).

The World is my Country, Emily Johns’ exhibition at Hastings Arts Forum (36 Marina, Saint Leonards-on-sea, TN38 0BU), is a visual celebration of the people and movements from around the globe that opposed the First World War one hundred years ago.

Featuring suffragettes and Maori princesses, disobedient soldiers and clandestine printing presses, a nonviolent Irish revolutionary and Wales’ greatest philosopher, it brings their little-known stories alive, as well as their chutzpah, for people today.

The exhibition will also feature specially-commissioned poetry by renowned contemporary poets Alan Brownjohn, Anna Robinson and Mererid Hopwood, the first woman ever to win the bardic chair at the National Eisteddfod of Wales.

Opening on Tuesday 30 October, the exhibition will run until Sunday 11th November, with a private view 6.30–8.30 on Saturday 3rd November.  In a special free talk at 7pm on Friday 9th November, Emily will give a whirlwind tour of the art and history behind her images. She will be joined by local campaigner Gabriel Carlyle for an exploration of the unknown history of the German Revolution that accompanied the war’s end, as well as the story of the British campaigners who opposed Britain’s post-war ‘hunger blockade’ of Germany. 

For more information visit: http://theworldismycountry.info or www.explorethearch.com

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