About 'Belonging: An Online Exhibition On Childhood'
We all deserve to “belong” somewhere. We all need to feel safe and secure in our identity. We all want to be part of a community. But what does this mean in relation to children throughout the years?
Most children – but by no means all – belong as part of a family, and as part of a school. Most children live in a street, as part of a neighbourhood.
But some children’s stories are different!
This exhibition of brings together a collection of 17 still images and documents selected from the collections from Gloucestershire Archives, and depicts the lives of children throughout the ages, who have their own story to tell and their own interpretation of belonging.
From historical records we know that:
- Very young children in the 1790’s were sometimes up before the beak (the magistrate, in the courts) for stealing a loaf of bread, simply because they were hungry. They were found guilty and shipped off to Australia – the New World, and one of Britain’s colonies – thousands of miles away from home. They would almost certainly have been homeless, living on the street, barefoot and in ragged clothes, commonly called “ragamuffins” or “street urchins”.
- Victorian children were admitted to workhouses (often called the Unions, managed by Overseers of the Poor because they were orphans, throughout the 1800’s. The film Oliver Twist depicts this story well, where Oliver the orphan asks, in the communal dining hall, “More please!” simply because he was starving.
- Gloucestershire was home to evacuees during World War II. Evacuees were city children and young people billeted (housed) with complete strangers, in the countryside, for the duration of the near 6-year war, to avoid the threat of bombing. It seems alien to us now, to wave goodbye to our children at the train station, as they embark a steam train for the first time, without knowing when you would see them again. Children felt displaced as they were sometimes separated from their siblings, immersed in an unidentifiable world of different dialects, foods and unrecognisable surroundings.
- In the late 1930’s bewildered and frightened Jewish children and young people fled Nazi Germany, seeking refuge in Britain. They often spoke no English and did not know if and when they would be able to return home. This became known as the kindertransport. In Gloucester there was a hostel, for 10 German Jewish boys who were given safety, while their families back home faced the emerging horrors of the Holocaust.
Filmmaker Jonathan will be creating 4 short films and workshops to inspire primary school aged children across Gloucester. Watch the film below to find out more about this project, taking the themes and images in the Belonging Exhibition as a starting point.
The project themes will include:
- Maps – if I belong, where do I belong? How do I create a map? What can maps tell us about where we live, and about the past?
- School log-books – incidents covered will be all about schooldays of old, a Schoolmaster’s or Schoolmistress’s comments on their charges, their waywardness, their playground games and fights, their home / family circumstances, exciting episodes in the life of the school
- World War II – evacuation, migration, fleeing danger, persecution, the kindness (or not) of strangers
- Kindertransport - the evacuation of children at risk under Hitler's rule to safe places in Europe (including Gloucester) ahead of WWII.
Following the relaxation of social distancing, Gloucestershire Archives plans to work with 9-11 year-olds across the county, encouraging them to respond creatively to the films, through the mediums of poetry, drama, stories or workshops.
Belonging, is part of our “For the Record” project, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. In 2020 It was intended that we work face-to-face with up to 20 school children, aged 9-11 years, to look creatively at themes connected with “belonging” in childhood. Due to Covid-19, the project was re-shaped and project worker Jonathan was appointed to make 4 short films all about aspects of belonging and childhood, that can later be used as a stimulus for children, when socially able.