‘Peace and Plenty?’: Exhibition remembers Oldham during WWI

A NEW exhibition ‘Peace and Plenty? Oldham and the First World War’ has opened at Gallery Oldham.

Souvenir Handkerchief

The exhibition looks at the experiences of those in Oldham living on the home front during the ‘Great War’.

And for the first time in more than a century it features a previously unknown letter by local suffragette Annie Kenney.

It was written by Annie to her sister Nell upon her release from Strangeways Prison in Manchester where she was imprisoned with Christabel Pankhurst.

The letter has previously laid unknown in the British Columbia Archives at the Royal British Columbia Museum, in Victoria, Canada.

The exhibition also examines what life for Oldhamers was like at the time including the harrowing losses they suffered and the achievements they made.

Co-curated by historians Alan Fowler and Terry Wyke, it explores how Oldham adapted to meet the needs of the war while also looking at the legacy it has left behind.

A taster of the type of objects featured include souvenirs sent by a German-born man to his family in Oldham from an internment camp on the Isle of Man as well as James Purdy’s fascinating painting, which captures the unveiling of the Oldham War Memorial in 1923.

The exhibition was made possible thanks to a grant of almost £7,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

This has enabled conservation work to be carried out on several items from Gallery Oldham’s own collections, including a range of Rolls of Honour from local buildings recording the sacrifices made by local communities.

Conservation work has also restored delicate items such as a souvenir paper tissue issued to celebrate Oldham’s ‘Tank Week’ in 1918.

Alan and Terry have also produced an accompanying booklet exploring the experiences of Oldhamers during, and in the aftermath of, the First World War. The booklet is available to buy from the Gallery Shop.

Cllr Paul Jacques, Cabinet Member for Education and Culture, said: “The aftermath of the First World War in Oldham is still evident today as we remember those who fought and died for our country.

“Acknowledging and appreciating the sacrifices made by Oldhamers on the home front during this time is vital.

“So it is paramount that Oldham’s residents of today have access to artefacts from this time and are aware of how Oldham has been shaped as a result.”

Sean Baggaley, Senior Exhibitions and Collections Co-ordinator, said: “One hundred years later this act of remembering still feels important and I am grateful to Alan and Terry for bringing so much of this work back to life.

“I hope the ‘Peace and Plenty?’ exhibition gives modern visitors some sense of the Oldham that was permanently reshaped by the First World War.”

• ‘Peace and Plenty? Oldham and the First World War’ runs until Saturday, January 12, 2019.

Alan Fowler will also deliver an exhibition talk on Wednesday, November 21 from 1pm.

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