In a weekend where so much has been said about remembrance, it was hard to think what more could be added and yet this evening of reflection and remembrance managed to not only capture the mood of solemnity but also encourage reflection and did so with grace and humour. Congratulations are due to all who devised, produced and took part in the event and in doing so enriched the experience of remembrance for all who were present.
The powerful nature of the event was due to the fact that much of the material used was taken from the school's own archives and so we were listening to genuine voices from the period, however the other key element was the simplicity and sincerity of the performances which meant it was impossible not to identify the youthful performers with the equally youthful Old Giggleswickians who became the soldiers of WW1. This was particularly apparent at the start of the programme when the current First XV Rugby Team performed a rousing rendition of the School Rugby song "Now Reds" beneath a photograph of their predecessors, 7 of whom did not return from the war.
Of the numerous Giggleswickians who went to war, 120 died and they were commemorated in the church by cards bearing their names strategically placed on pews in the church and by transparent silhouettes at the end of various pews, in the spirit of the "There But Not There" project. What was most poignant was the fact that each of these names represented not just a single life, but the vast loss of human potential for that and future generations, a point again emphasised by the extracts from letters from the front and from those at home to those serving abroad. Placing these deaths in context became even more moving when the context is the same street in which you live and the names are those which you still hear in the village.
This was not a production which relied on the traditional canon of material, instead it looked at a wide range of topics and placed at its centre the bravery of real boys and men who walked the same streets as we walk and the impact of their actions and deaths on our own community. It was therefore a very personal tribute in many respects, set against the wider notion of national remembrance. It was fitting then that there was also an exploration of slightly more unusual aspects of war, such as the reading from "Birdsong" by Sebastian Faulks which dealt with the problems encountered at a delousing station, or the extract from "War Horse" by Michael Morpurgo where English and German soldiers combine their talents to rescue a horse and then toss a coin to decide on who keeps it. Along with a very haunting reminder of the now familiar story of the Christmas Truce, there were also details of the rise of Women's Football and the story of Elsie Inglis, suffragette and medical pioneer who on being told to go home because there was no place for women at the front instead went on to found a hospital staffed entirely by women.
The evening was an extremely potent mixture, using song, poetry, archives and slides and also featured some stunning solos by current students. Equally powerful however was the incorporation of members of the school's international community as this served to remind us that this was not just an event of local significance but that it was, and still is, of global importance. While many of the events of recent days have been focused on past events, this evening was also about the future and nowhere was this more clear than in the choice of hymn, "Lord of all Hopefulnes" and the moving closing reading, "A Wish for Peace". Like so much else about the evening, it was both simple and profound.