Tag Archives: East Sussex

The Unremembered project

IMG_2934We’re pleased to have been commissioned to make a wreath for The Unremembered project in Hastings and St Leonards.
This is with the Big Ideas Company to develop activities with local community groups to explore the history of the Labour Corps – service personnel during World War I, and often forgotten in this part of history.

We created the wreath with 22 older people who meet at the Elizabeth Blackman Centre in Hastings, East Sussex. The session was facilitated by Strike a Light Director Cath Tajima Powell and it went really well. We’re really pleased with how it’s turned out!

The Unremembered project background:
This project is about the Labour Corps – Service Personnel in the British Army who have essentially been pretty forgotten and aren’t really commemorated anywhere. The aim is to raise the profile of the Labour Corps and share this learning with community groups.
Who were the Labour Corps?

 Image: Collection of John Sheen author of histories of the Northumberland Fusiliers and Durham Light Infantry.
 The Labour Corps supplied the army with weapons and ammunition, food and fodder, water and fuel. They built and maintained roads and railways. They were essential to the war effort.
British and Allied Forces struggled to cope with the demand for manpower after the huge losses of men during the Battle of the Somme in 1916. From January 1917, manpower was drawn from the UK, China, India, South Africa, Egypt, Canada, the Caribbean and many other places within the British Empire.
Tens of thousands travelled thousands of miles to defend freedom and although they rarely saw service in the frontline, many died or were seriously injured. Today their contributions and sacrifice are all but forgotten. They are The Unremembered.


That's all from AfrikaBa 2018!

That’s AfrikaBa for another year! Thank you to all the wonderful people who came to our varied cultural activities in Hastings in September and October.

We hope to see you again in 2019!

Strike a Light partnered with AfriKàBa, the Hastings based festival of African and Caribbean heritage, arts and culture, alongside Hastings Borough Council, and the Electric Palace Cinema.
AfriKàBa is an annual festival that showcases high quality work from artists with African and Caribbean heritage and engages audiences with unique and enriching experiences.
We had funding to provide free activities that positively promote African Caribbean culture, crafts and food including:

  • African Caribbean family activities for the public, all ages and backgrounds.
  • Drumming and singing workshops
  • Storytelling for families
  • Demonstration and tasting of East African  cooking at the flagship facility Classroom on the Coast.

We received funding from the Chalk Cliff Trust to deliver these activities and for this many thanks!


Gateways to the First World War event

Free Heritage Open Days events this week!

HOD Poster

Strike a Light in partnership with Fabrica gallery hosts two free Heritage Open Days events in Brighton this week – Thursday 10th and Friday 11th September, part of our The Boys on the Plaque project.
These events are now live on the Heritage Open Days website. All details for this event which is open to all below:
Fabrica –The Boys on the Plaque
40 Duke Street, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 1AG

During this special drop-in event, Fabrica will open it’s doors to the public for an afternoon of stimulating and engaging activities and exhibits to inspire new ways of considering our communities’ experience of the war. This free event will include creative workshops, heritage activities and screenings to explore personal memories relating to the war and the stories we were left with.
Guest speakers will include researcher and oral historian for ‘War Stories: Voices of the First World War’ Jo Palache, and Dr Chris Kempshall, Project Officer – First World War in East Sussex.
Visitors are invited to bring their own stories and keepsakes to share with volunteers and staff and contribute to our research project, which seeks to uncover the history of each of The Boys on the Plaque, as well as discovering the wider story of Brighton & Hove during WWI. A free afternoon tea, music and a warm welcome to people of all ages will be provided!
Event Times
Thursday 10 September: 1300-1600
Booking Details
Book here: botphod.event

The Boys on the Plaque event is a free drop in activity and all are welcome even if only for 10 minutes. Free refreshments will be available at the event.To attend this free event, you can book here:http://botphod.event This event will also form the jumping off point for a series of monthly Free activities called Conversation Cafes which will look at aspects and reminiscences about the First World War including talks and trips to the Keep and the Rare Books Archive in Brighton.
Clare Hankinson, Project Manager – The Boys on the Plaque Fabrica 01273 778646


With thanks to the East Sussex in WWI website for image
WWI Walking Tour Brighton with Historian Dr Geoffrey Mead
Fabrica, 40 Duke Street, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 1AG
Led by local historian Dr Geoffrey Mead, this will be a unique, one-off Walking Tour of Brighton’s historic Lanes, exploring the history and changing social and architectural landscape of this area of the city in relation to the period of time around WWI.
Inspired by a selection of stories from local soldiers commemorated on a memorial plaque at the Holy Trinity Church, the tour will begin at Fabrica art gallery. This tour uses the WWI heritage project The Boys on the Plaque as a starting point. The tour will last 60-90 minutes and will take place on the streets of Brighton – sensible shoes and attire recommended. Event not suitable for children under the age of 12.
Event Times
Friday 11 September: Walk 1800-1930
Booking Details
Pre-booking: Required

Go to: http://botpwalkingtour.eventbrite.com
Booking Contact: Clare Hankinson
Call: 01273 778646
Email: clare.hankinson@fabrica.org.uk

All welcome.  Accessible toilets on site. Accessible parking space (1) in front of building. This a walking tour so the tour will visit sites around the Lanes part of Brighton.
Additional information
Max 30 people per tour/session. This walking tour may last 60 – or 90 minutes depending on the size of the group on the tour. Free but donations welcome.

World War I East Sussex

Strike a Light found this great website resource earlier called World War I East Sussex, cataloguing all memories and images relating to the centenary of the Great War, in East Sussex. The following text on ‘Conchies’ in Sussex is really quite fascinating to read:

logoConscientious Objection in Sussex

Whilst recruitment and conscription saw many East Sussex men enter the ranks of the British Army some resisted service on grounds of conscience or religion.

First World War recruitment, which was built upon popular support largely peaked in the early months of the war in 1914. Propaganda posters and appeals to men’s patriotic instincts worked well but only to a point. The losses of men at the front either wounded or killed necessitated a constant stream of replacements and reinforcements.


Before the war, Britain had been unique in the main European nations in that the armed forces had been made up of professional soldiers or volunteers with no compulsory military service. By 1916, this was no longer sustainable.

The Military Service Act of 1916 was not as simple as is now believed but, in essence, meant that every unmarried or widowed man between the ages of 19 and 40 was now eligible to be conscripted into the British Army. The provisions of the Act would change several times over the duration of the war so that, by 1918, it covered married men between the ages of 18 years 6 months and 50 years old.

Whilst it was late in introducing conscription to the population, Britain further differed from the other nations by recognising Conscientious Objection as a legal way to be exempt from military service. Conscientious Objection was not the only method available for being granted an exemption. Men could also go before Military Service Tribunals on the grounds of ill health, work of national importance, or domestic hardship. In fact, Conscientious Objectors made up only a tiny fraction of those who came before the tribunals but were often among those most harshly treated as they often reflected wider public opinion as to the apparent cowardice or lack of character of the men. In total 16,000 men applied for exemption on the grounds of Conscientious Objection across the total span of the war. They represented 0.33% of those who fought. More British soldiers died on the First Day of the Somme than attempted to claim absolute Conscientious Objection during the entire war.

 Letter from the Sussex Military Tribunal regarding a Conscientious Objector. East Sussex Record Office, The Keep

Claiming Conscientious Objection

To claim exemption on the grounds of conscience men often had to prove that they did indeed hold such a belief and it could be evidenced from before the war. If successful, men would be offered the option of undertaking some form of alternative work of national importance to the war effort but not requiring them to actively serve. These ‘alternativists‘ would carry out work such as farming, industry, or stretcher-bearing for the duration of the war. Those who refused any form of service, the ‘absolutists‘ were often imprisoned and risked being sentenced to death. Although no death sentences were carried out on Conscientious Objectors a number did die in prison and elsewhere because of the harsh conditions to which they were subjected.

A group of ‘alternativist’ Conscientious Objectors were put to work building roads near Seaford where a Sussex soldier wrote to his wife in 1917 about how men in the army treated those Conscientious Objectors:

They all were allowed leave at Easter and Xmas and get real good food. Don’t you think its rather unfair to us fellows? We often march past them and pass a good deal of comments etc; some-times there is a “rough-house” ending in a few C.O’s being badly “mauled” and a few of us chaps escorted back to the Guard-room and then punished “C.B. etc”. This is an everyday occurance [sic].

Earlier in 1916, those same Conscientious Objectors had been the subject of an arson attack by Canadian soldiers when the hut in which they were sleeping was tarred.

 Letter from the Sussex Military Tribunal regarding a Conscientious Objector. East Sussex Record Office, The Keep

The Military Service Act did work in allowing Britain to field a larger army. The recruitment statistics for before and after its inception are almost identical with 2.46 million men enlisting before January 1916 and 2.5 million afterwards.

Whilst Conscientious Objection is seen as being a particularly First World War issue, numbers actually dramatically rose for the Second World War with over 60,000 men claiming for an exemption from service on the grounds of their conscience.


Blighty: British Society in the era of the Great War by Gerard DeGroot

Sussex in the First World War by Keith Grieves

The Last Great War by Adrian Gregory

East Sussex Record Office, The Keep

Upcoming oral history project


Strike a Light just received some info about this interesting new project in the Hastings area. They’re looking for folk to get involved with their oral history project. A great way to learn new skills and work on a project of social importance and heritage.

Volunteer Role Description: Oral History Project

Role summary

An exciting opportunity to work with Hastings and Rother Rainbow Alliance, an established community group, to develop the History Project element of their work to record and promote hidden and marginalised voices from the LGB&T community.

Role description

You will work alongside the HRRA Committee and History Project volunteers to manage and develop the History Project. This will include:

  • Promoting participation in project by volunteers and interviewees
  • Undertaking oral history recording alongside other trained volunteers
  • Overseeing and undertaking transcription of oral history interviews
  • Liaising with the The Keep (historical resource centre in Falmer) regarding deposit of interviews and transcriptions
  • Applying for funding for development of the project – exhibitions, publications etc

Experience, skills and qualities required

  • In depth knowledge of LGB&T community
  • Interest in oral and community history
  • Oral history recording experience (desirable)
  • IT skills (desirable)


  • Induction meeting with HRRA Committee
  • Induction with previous History Project volunteer leads


You will report to a specific HRRA Committee member.


Home based – computer and internet connection required.


Estimated at 2-4 hours work per week, which can be undertaken flexibly.


Initial 3 month trial period, then minimum 12 months commitment.


Expenses incurred will be refunded e.g. training, travel. Approval of all expenditure to be given in advance by HRRA Committee.

For more information and to apply contact info@hrra.org.uk or call 07824 597378 and speak to Abi Luthmann (ex-HRRA Committee member and  History Project co-lead)