18 May 2018
We’re delighted to announce that the film we commissioned about the Salonika Campaign has now been launched, and is available on our website. The film will also be available for visitors to see at Sandham Memorial Chapel.
12 March 2018
Today the exhibition of art – ‘Salonika Reflections’ – was opened at the Sandham Memorial Chapel. Stuart Maughan, representing the National Trust, welcomed the guests to the Chapel before Alan Wakefield from the Imperial War Museum, and a trustee of ‘Away from the Western Front’ and chairman of the Salonika Campaign Society, outlined the importance of the Salonika Campaign in the history of the First World War. He valued the opportunity for military veterans to relate their own experiences to those of serving soldiers from a century ago. Also viewed for the first time today was the film ‘Salonika’ produced by Khaki Devil for the project. This will be available for visitors to the Chapel and will be uploaded to this website shortly, along with an online version of the exhibition.
1 March 2018
Hanging the exhibition of veterans’ art in Sandham Memorial Chapel this week. The photos show some of the exhibits.
23 January 2018
Coming towards the end of the sessions, we are drawing together the artwork produced by the veterans, including this thought-provoking photo-montage by Oli. The soldier stands with confidence against the brick wall, yet the image captures his extreme helplessness and vulnerability: it’s as though he’s standing in front of a firing squad, with the centre of the flower doubling as a gun-sight and the burst of the explosion that will kill him. Having assembled the veterans’ work, the next stage will be to collate the pieces into an exhibition at the Sandham Memorial Chapel in March 2018.
4 January 2018
The group experimented with photography this week. They found this a useful way to combine very different images using projection. In particular, they were fascinated by the contrast between domestic life and life in the army. This was even more raw for them as they faced the challenges of homelessness and mental health in their post-military life. Using images of the Salonika Campaign, modern recruiting offices and homeless veterans, they produced the extraordinary photographs below.
14 December 2017
Two examples of the veterans’ artwork in development this week – a hard-hitting photomontage by Oli and the first of a triptych of feltwork pieces by Helen. The group will now re-convene in January.
30 November 2017
Clearly the visit to the Sandham Memorial Chapel had a profound effect on the Alabaré participants. In the session the following week they were still talking about it with enthusiasm. Tony said ‘There was so much to take in – I could have spent days there, it went so quickly’. Matthew was away that week but Oli described his reactions: ‘It made a huge impression on him, he came into my room, sat on my bed and talked for hours about the paintings and everything he had seen etc’. The veterans are continuing to develop their own art, linking their own military experiences with that of the soldiers who fought in Salonika and it looks like this will lead to a truly unique exhibition at Sandham next year.
24 November 2017
The group from Alabaré made a trip to the Sandham Memorial Chapel in Burghclere this week. They met staff and volunteers and spent time looking at Stanley Spencer’s extraordinary wall paintings in the Chapel. It was a profound experience, as described by Susan Francis:
‘It was clear that the group were very absorbed and moved by the paintings in situ. They all spent a long time in silence just looking at all the detail and taking in the atmosphere. It was a very special and I was so pleased that they reacted so strongly to the work. Matthew who hadn’t heard as much about the paintings hadn’t really known what to expect and they made a deep impression on him. He noted how there was no violence there at all and this had not what he had been expecting: ‘it’s just how they lived, how they got by’. He described the lack of weapons and violence as ‘refreshing’. They were all very interested to tie up the things they knew about the Salonika campaign with the scenes in the paintings and I felt that doing so much research before we did this trip, listening to recordings, reading letters etc, just made the paintings have even more impact when they finally saw them’.
20 November 2017
A visit to Alabaré by Alan Wakefield from the Imperial War Museum brought Salonika to life this week. He brought with him several artefacts from the campaign. Next week the group will travel to Burghclere to visit the Sandham Memorial Chapel where Stanley Spencer’s dramatic murals show his own experiences at Salonika.
13 November 2017
Working with military veterans provides a completely different perspective on the history of the First World War. It’s almost impossible to be objective about history: we pick out the bits which we relate to best. For people who have experienced military service, the accounts of soldiers in Salonika have particular resonance. The group read letters sent from home and were struck by the contrast between the upbeat tone of these, compared to the reality of life on the Balkan Front, expressed by the soldiers’ own accounts.
They also began to think about life after the war and the mental health issues faced by the soldiers returning from Salonika, relating this to their own mental health issues. Oli said, ‘I think that feeling of abandonment is standard’, meaning it is the same whether it is in the past or present day. Tony also spoke from
his own experience when he said, ‘They didn’t have jobs, they had nothing – no support – there was no understanding of mental health, they were just written off’’. Helen noted the effect on the people who had to live with the returning soldiers: ‘It wasn’t just them, the ones coming back, the whole family was broken’.
Undoubtedly this project is having a therapeutic effect for the participants, each of whom is working on a deeply personal level, relating their own perspectives to the lives of the soldiers who served in Salonika. A range of art approaches is being used, and Susan Francis is allowing each participant to choose the medium which best suits the way they need to express themselves.
6 November 2017
On Week 3 of the project at Alabaré, participants listened again to recordings of Salonika veterans, in which they described the desperate cold that the troops endured. Mark said as he painted ‘I’m going to use yellow (for Autumn), ’cause it’s bright and happy…and that is what they would have been thinking of in that cold, dreaming of being back home, back with their families’.
Mark said as he worked, ‘I want my work to be about peace, ’cause that’s what they [the troops in Salonika] wanted, – we should be living in peace, not war’. The participants found that the process of creating artwork was not only therapeutic but helped them to relate their own experiences to those of the soldiers of a century ago.
1 November 2017
Military veterans at Alabaré in Salisbury have been continuing with their workshop sessions with Susan Francis. This week they began to explore the reasons why people joined up in the first place. The group listened to oral history interviews with men from the Salonika campaign describing how they hadn’t given much thought as to what lay ahead and Oli offered this account of why he had joined the military: ‘When you’ve finished your training that’s the first thing you want to do [get into the conflict] and you’re only a kid, you’re invincible and all you really want is excitement, I didn’t want to go killing people, I was sixteen, I wanted a buzz, you know what I mean’.
The group began to develop creative ideas using monotype. At the end, Oli said he wouldn’t be needing his mindfulness session because it had been so relaxing to focus on the artwork!
30 October 2017
Our film about the Salonika Campaign has progressed well. It combines footage from the battlefields with an interview with Alan Wakefield from the Imperial War Museum and this was completed at the Khaki Devil set in Suffolk today. The film will be available on the website soon, and will also be on show at Sandham Memorial Chapel.
19 October 2017
Our first workshop was held this week in Salisbury. The photo shows the participants preparing boxes for the artwork and materials they will be working on during the project – a reference to Stanley Spencer’s description of the Sandham Memorial Chapel as a ‘Holy Box’.
17 October 2017
After a number of meetings during the summer, we are about to start delivering this project. In partnership with the charity Alabaré in Salisbury, we are going to work with a group of military veterans who have either faced or lived through homelessness. Artist Susan Francis will explore their experience of military service and relate it to records from the Salonika Campaign, a century earlier. At this stage the National Trust volunteers at the Sandham Memorial Chapel are collecting first hand accounts of soldiers who served in the campaign, as the veterans felt that it was these which would be most meaningful for them.
Meanwhile progress has been made with our film about the Salonika Campaign: the script has been written, footage from battlefield visits prepared and a date set aside for filming voice-overs and interviews at the Khaki Devil studio in Suffolk. The film will be useful in helping the Alabaré group to understand the context for their art project.
18 May 2017
There’s a lot going on behind the scenes at the moment. Following a visit to the Salonika battlefields organised by the Salonika Campaign Society, work is just starting on the script for the film which will form a central part of this project. Meanwhile at the Sandham Memorial Chapel, after a planning meeting on 30 March and further discussion at the main project meeting on 28 April, National Trust staff are exploring community groups and audiences to take part in the planned arts activities. Plans have also been developed to link up with the Salonika project taking place in Castle Drogo.