90 years ago Field Marshal Earl Haig (the Commander of the British Forces in World War I) was inspired by a group of French widows selling silk poppies on London streets. They had in turn been inspired by the iconic poem In Flanders Field. Haig recognised the potential of the these poppies to become both a symbol of remembrance and also as a means to support the welfare of ex-servicemen.
Poppyscotland, the charity who make the poppies in Scotland, have announced an exciting moving image competition to reflect on 90 years of wearing the poppy. The theme is: ‘90 years of the Poppy – then and now. 1921-2011’. There are two categories, one for primary and one for secondary. The film must be 5 minutes long and schools can enter with a script, storyboard or a completed film. The deadline is the 5th December 2011 and the winning entry will win the opportunity to work with a filmmaker for the day to make or remake their film
Your class could plan short radio, TV news clips or newspaper front pages from different conflicts that span the era. The excellent Scotland On Screen website has many fascinating archive clips to inspire debate and which can also be used as part of a multimedia film. Watch archive clips from WWI and WWII and learn how users with a Glow account can reappropriate them to create new films. The BBC has a great selection of WWII audio clips that may also provide an interesting starting point.
Poetry and memories
Pupils could take a poem like In Flanders Field and recite it across their own images of war and the effects of war, past and present. They could also write their own poetry. Here is an example of how archive film has been used to inspire and enhance poetry, newspaper articles and live action scenes inspired by the Victorians.
Research and collect memories of war from relatives and neighbours. Use them as a narration for still art images, animation and archive clips or turn them into short live action dramas.
Based on real interviews with former soldiers serving in Iraq, Black Watch powerfully incorporates dance, song and squaddie humour to convey the grim reality of life on the ground and also the great pride the soldiers have for their regiment. Definitely one to discuss with older pupils.
The National Archives
Animation, comic books and art
The National Archive's section on The Art of War is superb and offers endless possibilities for creativity. Pupils could create an animation or live action sequence inspired by one of the historic artworks. Or they could create their own art, posters or strip comics that reflect on past wars and present day conflicts like Afghanistan. No need for any words, just add an appropriate musical soundtrack.
War and comedy
There are plenty of films celebrating and fictionalising the heroic contributions made during wartime: Where Eagles Dare and The Great Escape being two of my own personal favourites. Try making a short homage to your own favourite classic war movie, like the clever Chicken Run or this 3D animation made by primary school pupils.
War: what is it good for?
Field Marshal Haig is a controversial character, especially because of his command and decisions at The Battle of The Somme and the tradition of wearing white poppies (a sign of pacifism and an end to wars) dates back to 1933.
War Game is a poignant short animation based on Michael Foreman's book about the infamous truce and football game on No Man's Land on Christmas Day 1914.
When The Wind Blows, based on the book by Raymond Briggs, is a heartbreaking animation about how a very sweet elderly couple cope with the lead up to and aftermath of a nuclear strike.