On November 11th students from our first year National Diploma in Performing Arts and Diploma in Music marked Remembrance Day with their own devised tribute to the fallen.
This began with a the reading of a moving letter from one of the poets featured in last year's performance who had seen the coverage of last year's event on our Culture & Arts website and written in response. The letter, read by Lecturer Julia O'Keeffe, set a perfect tone for the rest of the performance, and her insights were especially thought provoking regarding the troops currently in Afghanistan.
Marianne Griffin, had written, "I am the author of the Remembrance Day poem that one of your students chose for your college presentation, which is reported on your website. It is very pleasing to see that so many schools and colleges (also book authors) are now using my poems to illustrate the plight of servicemen and women in war situations.
As a Forces wife in the 1970s and 80s, I had first hand experience of what living in a war zone was like, and working with families when the men were away in war zones, and what happened to families on the men's return.
Post traumatic stress disorder still affects many servicemen and women, and can ruin both their lives and those of the whole family. Forces' families put up with a lot of unusual events and behaviours that would not be tolerated in civvy street. It can be a very violent environment.
Because one is continually moving, from one base to another, there is little opportunity for wives to build long term friendships or gain a footing in the local community, to follow a career, find a job, or gain rapport within a professional network. So wives become "global nomads", with no roots, separated from one's own family. It is therefore very difficult for the children to bond within extended family, and they too become isolated, often having to change schools, always having to make new friends, and finding that their education is disjointed and suffers as a consequence.
It's a hard life being part of a Forces family. It's not just the men/ women personnel who have a huge sacrifice to pay, it's the families too."
Then the students presented a series of poems, songs, drama and movement pieces. Poems included Rupert Brooke's The Soldier; Alfred Lord Tennyson's Crossing The Bara and Karla Ceja's Once A Soldier plus self penned poetry by the students. Songs including Love Can Build A Bridge and When You're Gone along with an inventive movement sequence Love and Compassion lent the event a more contemporary feel than in previous years.
Then as the hauntingly beautiful strains of Tallis' Spem in Alium 40 part motet filled the Henry Mitchell Hall, the climax of the event saw the students file slowly from left and right to place their poppy on the draped coffin-like structure. Several members of the audience were moved to tears by this simple, respectful act of remembrance.