Exploring Leeds and Yorkshire in the First World War


University of Leeds academics are taking part in a major public event examining the role of Leeds and the wider region in the First World War.

Exploring Leeds and Yorkshire in the Great War takes place at Leeds City Museum from 11am-4pm on Saturday 27 September.

Experts will be on hand for a roadshow-style element from 11am-2pm to hear people’s family stories of the war and examine letters, pictures, medals and other memorabilia. 

A panel discussion, from 2pm, will consider a range of poignant themes relating to the war, in response to questions from the public.

The day will also feature talks, children’s activities, music and drama performances reflecting the period, exhibitions and displays – across several parts of the museum.

The event has been organised by Leeds Museums & Galleries in partnership with the University, Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty's Leeds Pals, POWs and the Home Front project – and Yorkshire Post Newspapers, among others.

Alison Fell, Professor of French Cultural History at the University of Leeds, oversees its Legacies of War centenary project. She said: 

“We are looking forward to meeting lots of people on the day and sharing their stories of the First World War.

“We are also delighted to be working with Leeds Museums and Galleries on what promises to be a great opportunity to share some of the things we have learnt about the war’s many different aspects, and to showcase some of the research projects the Legacies of War team has been supporting.

“Dozens of projects will be highlighted and there will be talks with a broad appeal for people interested in the war and how it affected people from Leeds and the rest of Yorkshire.”

Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, Leeds City Council’s executive member for digital and creative technologies, culture and skills, said:

“As part of the 100 year commemorations marking the start of the First World War, we are delighted to be hosting with partners this special event at Leeds City Museum, which will offer a diverse and interesting programme of activities for people of all ages.

“With live performances of poetry also set to be undertaken on the day, children activities and exhibitions and displays, this promises to be a real highlight of our First World War events and activities programme.”

The University has teamed up with the BBC to offer a free online course (MOOC) next month – World War One: Changing Faces of Heroism – which looks at how the war changed traditional views of heroism. For more details, see www.futurelearn.com./courses/ww1-heroism

Professor Fell, who will chair the 2pm public debate in the museum’s Brodrick Hall, added: “We will discuss the ways in which the war is being commemorated during the centenary, asking whether the approach taken by the Government, museums, the BBC and others has been an appropriate and inclusive way to remember the contributions of the millions of men and women whose lives were changed by the conflict.

“This will be a chance to discuss some of the tensions and challenges inherent in commemorating the war.”

Questions can be emailed in advance of the discussion to ww1heritage@leeds.gov.uk, or submitted on the day.

Themes covered at the event will include:

  •  100 years of theatre and cinema
  •  Letters from the frontline
  • Yorkshire rugby in the First World War
  • Medals and coins
  • Music in 1914
  • How newspapers covered the war
  •  The Leeds Pals 

Former Leeds academic Dr Peter Liddle will talk about the University’s Liddle Collection – an unrivalled archive that includes the personal papers of more than 4,000 people, as well as artefacts, memorabilia and oral testimonies of veterans and their relatives.

Impromptu performances from Oh! What a Lovely War and roving poetry recitals from the period will take place throughout the museum during the day, while younger visitors can explore objects and poems from the war with guest writer Mary Cooper.

The discussion panel will be composed of John Roles, Leeds City Council’s head of museums and galleries, Jonathan Ferguson, curator of firearms at the city’s Royal Armouries Museum, and local historians Andrea Hetherington and Dave Stowe – both of whom have been central to projects supported by Legacies of War.

Leeds City Museum is in Millennium Square, Cookridge Street, Leeds, LS2 8BH. For more details, see www.leeds.gov.uk/citymuseum


First World War medal and prayer book, with moving excerpts marked with petals © Leeds Museums & Galleries. Photograph by Sara Porter. 

Further information

For interviews with Professor Alison Fell, contact University of Leeds press officer Gareth Dant on 0113 343 3996 or g.j.dant@leeds.ac.uk.

For media inquiries relating to Leeds City Museum, contact Leeds City Council press officer Colin Dickinson on 0113 395 1578 or colin.dickinson@leeds.gov.uk.