Artists to Mark First World War Centenary

UK-wide programme of commemorative events and commissions includes major works across Northern Ireland in 2016

Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Nissen, who invented the Nissen Hut in April 1916, talking to a Sergeant in front of a Nissen Hut at Blangy 1917  © IWM (Q 1743)

14-18 NOW, the UK’s official arts programme for the First World War centenary, has announced details of major events and new co-commissions taking place across Northern Ireland in 2016.

Among the highlights, choreographer Fearghus Ó Conchúir will present the ambitious dance work The Casement Project, inspired by inspired by the British peer, Irish nationalist and international humanitarian Roger Casement, who was hanged in Pentonville Prison in 1916.

Knighted for exposing human rights abuses in the Congo and the Amazon, his support for Irish nationalism during the First World War was a British scandal, and his homosexuality was even more so. The project will include stage performances, a film, an academic symposium, a summer beach dance festival and a series of other opportunities for public participation before it is performed in Belfast in autumn.

In October, Obie Award-winning New York performer Taylor Mac will come to Northern Ireland for the first time to present The WW1 Years and More, a series of participative concerts at the Belfast International Arts Festival, with whom it's co-commissioned, reflecting on Ireland’s experiences during the first decades of the 20th century.

In two concerts, his astute take on music and culture spans the years before, during and after the First World War from 1896 through to 1926. His third show will be a ten-decade spectacular from 1916, the year of the Battle of the Somme and the Easter Rising, through to 2016.

Accompanied by a live band and dressed in a dazzling array of costume creations, Mac will reflect on notions of authority, class, empire, gender, patriotism and war, and differing perceptions and attitudes to how history is made and viewed.

Elsewhere, Radio Relay will explore historic moments in the development of radio, from the first pirate broadcast during the Easter Rising to the trench radios that were first used at the Battle of the Somme. Artists including Graham Fagen, Paddy Bloomer, Gareth Moore, Philip Hession and Mhairi Sutherland will create new works for a nationwide programme co-commissioned with Golden Thread Gallery, with participation at its core.

As part of a unique midsummer weekend at Belfast's ancient Giant's Ring, from June 18 - 20, visitors will be invited to work with artists to build their own lo-fi radio transmitters and make silver kites to recreate early experiments in radio antennae.

Meanwhile in Shelter, artist Anne Tallentire will explore the architectural legacy of the Nissen hut, the curved structure invented during the First World War to house soldiers and supplies. Co-commissioned with Nerve Centre, Tallentire will create work across a range of media, including drawing, photography and film.

In June and July, visitors will be invited to watch Tallentire work in an open studio at Eighty81, a former army barracks in Derry~Londonderry. She will also work with architects, activists and volunteers to produce a large-scale work, which will be exhibited in outdoor public spaces, including Ebrington Square and the Ulster Museum.

Jenny Waldman, Director, 14-18 NOW, said: 'One hundred years ago this year, the First World War was entering its darkest days. As the conflict entered its third year it must have felt as though the war would last forever, a sensation heightened by the intense brutality of the Battle of the Somme.

'It is important to remember the momentous impact of the First World War in Northern Ireland as well as mark the centenary of the Easter Rising.'

Taking place between March 22 and November 18 across the UK, 14-18 NOW's 2016 programme explores themes such as the changing role of women, the treatment of conscientious objectors and the contribution of Asian soldiers. Its 2014 season, which marked the war's outbreak, reached 19 million people across the UK.

14-18 NOW is an independent programme hosted within Imperial War Museums and is funded by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England, and by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. For details of the full programme visit www.1418now.org.uk.