This morning (8 June 2018) The Men Behind the Glass project welcomed 170 primary school pupils who had been involved in the ‘time traveler’ drama workshop element of the project and who came to view the finished film of the interactive sessions in which they had participated. They were from Grange Park, Strandtown, Gilnahirk and Campbell Junior schools.
Earlier this year, Dr. Michelle Young, the creative manager on the project, led a series of drama workshops with P7 pupils in nine local schools in east and south Belfast to introduce children to the project, consider what life was like at an Edwardian school one hundred years ago and explore the subject of the First World War.
She structured the workshops around the real-life story of Robert McConnell, a former Campbell pupil. Robert left Campbell College aged 18 in 1914 and was commissioned into the British Army as an infantry officer in early 1915. He was killed a year later on active service in what is now modern-day Iraq. A number of letters from Robert exist in the Campbell College archives and formed the basis of some drama pieces that illustrated his life. An actor played Robert and another portrayed Ms. Boal, a real-life art teacher at Campbell during the Great War. Both were used to introduce pupils to Robert’s life and explain to the children what it was like at the school one hundred years ago.
A key part of the workshop was a ‘time capsule’ of objects which Robert would have had during his time at school or in uniform as a soldier. They included items such as school reports, letters and parcels Robert may have received on active service containing things like socks or sweets. The purpose of the capsule was to help stimulate children’s imaginations by getting them to ‘travel’ back in time to think about what life was like then. The actors were used to interact with the students and answer their questions about Robert’s life in the army or at Campbell.
Overall, the workshops aimed to help support learning on aspects of the Great War and develop student skills in literacy and role-playing.
The film of the drama workshops that was shown to the P7 pupils today will be available on the website soon.