I’m just in the final wrapping up stage of a year long First World War commemoration project in the Melksham area. There’s always a few loose ends that need tying up at the end of the project and it’s also a good time to reflect on what’s been achieved.
We started the project in the late summer of 2017 and an exhibition in November 2018 seemed a long way off then. As anyone who has put together an exhibition knows it’s not!
This Heritage Lottery Funded project was supported by the Wiltshire Council Melksham Area Board and the lead organisation was Melksham Town Council. They were keen that the project should explore what life was like on the home front rather than the usual focus on names on a war memorial, though that’s important too.
The first step was to recruit local people to carry out the research. We held a recruitment event in Melksham library who were extremely supportive throughout the life of the project. People came and were keen (first win!). We held an induction session at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. The team at the History Centre were another source of continued support with help and advice. They have a wide range of expertise within the team and the archive is comprehensive and well run. The volunteers loved using their services and always felt welcome.
The activity plan included working with young people, older people and engaging the wider community. It culminated in a public exhibition at the Melksham Town Hall 10 – 11 November 2018 with special education sessions for local schools on the Friday supported by the Wiltshire Council Heritage Education Officer, Ruth Butler. Booking the Wiltshire Scrapstore encouraged families to attend with around 45 youngsters creating poppies and bi-planes. In all around 700 people visited. The exhibition then toured local venues with stays in Seend, Semington, Shaw, Broughton Gifford and Bowerhill. In total we estimate around 1,000 saw the exhibition which was overwhelmingly well received.
I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Melksham and the surrounding area better and the volunteers. Its another win that they have agreed to continue their researches after the project concludes. To find out more about their work see their website
If you think that I could help you with volunteer recruitment and management or similar community engagement project please do get in touch!