Following on from last year’s Community Performance of ‘Under Milk Wood’, the Christ College Community came together on Thursday evening to present a performance exploring the themes of War. The performance, titled ‘Passing Bells’, took the form of a mixture of Pathe News Reels, War Poetry, Songs, Theatre Scenes and Comic Sketches. It also drew on images and words related to photographs and documents in the Christ College Archive.
Passing Bells is just one event in a project that aims to help the Christ College community understand the experience of war through the lives of those who served and their families. The words and images used in the performance are from a variety of eras but, as the school commemorates the 447 Old Breconians who served in the First World War, it is inevitable that thoughts are turned to the 57 Old Breconians who lost their lives in the conflict and those who later died as a result of physical or mental trauma sustained while fighting. A third of the 447 enlisted before December 1914. Some were already in the services and were mobilised from all parts of the Empire. Many more were boys who signed up to serve their country within weeks of leaving school. Their lives, and the lives of those around them, were changed forever.
In the years to 1914, score-books and prize lists reveal a litany of ambition and aspiration – games to be won, records to be broken, prizes to be collected and university scholarships to be taken up. The unchanging pattern of lessons and games at school continued between 1914 and 1918, but the stories of those who served are accounts of lives brought to an end or interrupted by the cruelties of war.
Lieutenant P A G Kell, the first Old Breconian to be killed in the First World War, died at sea on 22nd September 1914. The last surviving Old Breconian to have served in the First World War, Captain (later Reverend) Illtyd Stephen Jenkins, died in his hundredth year in 1993, having first fought in Gallipoli at the age of 22.
Head of Christ College, Mrs Emma Taylor, who took part in the performance said, “The items in the performance reflected the contrasts of war – its humour and its camaraderie as well as its devastation and its pity. We hope the selection of items chosen to be part of our community drama will add to our collective understanding of war. For the most lasting memorial we can give to all Old Breconians who have served in conflict is that we will remember.”
Head of Creative Arts at Christ College, John Johnson, explained: “My aim was for the evening to be a collaboration of the Christ College Community incorporating Students, Parents, Staff and Old Breconians. As the performance included ‘live readings’ there was no pressure to learn lines – just a willingness to have a go and deliver some powerful and beautiful material. This they certainly did with great empathy and respect.”
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