World War I centenary engaged public and increased inter-generational rapport

Commemorations of the centenary of World War I, which were moderated by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) successfully engaged the public, according to a Select Committee report published this week.

The DCMS, arts bodies and charitable organisations have been praised for their work marking the World War I centenary (pic credit: Splash News/Alamy Stock photo)
The DCMS, arts bodies and charitable organisations have been praised for their work marking the World War I centenary (pic credit: Splash News/Alamy Stock photo)

The House of Commons DCMS committee said commemorations "were hugely successful, engaging a significant proportion of the population across all parts of the UK".

In its report, 'Lessons from the First World War Centenary', the committee praised organisations involved in delivering the four-year commemoration programme.

These included the arts organisation 14-18 NOW - which commissioned projects such as the poppy installation at the Tower of London - the Imperial War Museum and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The Imperial War Museum had more than nine million visitors during the commemorations, up 21 per cent on the previous four years.

DCMS and 14-18 NOW

DCMS, the lead government department for the project, was praised for its hands-off approach and for being "the moderator of all but not the director of it", in evidence given to the report by 14-18 NOW director Jenny Waldman.

According to the report, 14-18 NOW spent more than £4m on marketing and communications to deliver its programme of events, as part of an overall budget of nearly £37m.

Its projects reached 35 million people during the four-year programme.

Meanwhile, DCMS led an integrated comms campaign with three main objectives: to increase understanding of the war; provide opportunities for remembrance; and increase public recognition of veterans' sacrifice.

Young people

The report said research before the commemorations started in 2014 found low levels of public awareness of World War I, and that young people were engaged with the four-year programme via arts projects, but not through the school curriculum.

Enhanced intergenerational understanding was a "valuable by-product" of the centenary’s focus on young people and the report advised that DCMS should consider how this can play a larger role in future commemorations.

The committee also recommended that the DCMS absorb the lessons of how the arts were used to engage young people and "preserve the digital assets" of the four-year programme.


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