Diversity House has received £95,300 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an exciting project, “Breaking The Myths: First World War and Africa”, in Sittingbourne and Maidstone area. World War One was a global conflict and has an important and lasting global legacy. However, many of the commemorations fail to acknowledge the contributions, experiences and trauma of Non-European Countries. This project aims to address this exclusion by highlighting the involvement of African people and the conflict played out within Africa.
Thanks to National Lottery players, Diversity House will engage with 1090 younger members of the Swale and Maidstone communities by working with several schools and youth clubs. Participation of the wider adults will be created via a project exhibition that will appear at participating Swale Libraries, a permanent home for which has been negotiated at Maidstone Xross-PolyNation Art Gallery, HRGS.
On this occasion, Mrs Christine Locke, CEO, Diversity House said: “We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and are confident the project will be able to teach people on how to accommodate and adapt their attitudes and behaviours in relation to other people’s heritage, particularly that of the Africans. They will understand and appreciate that the Africans ‘then and now’ have a stake in Britain. This will improve and reduce racial tensions which started boiling over in the wake of Britain’s exit from the European Union.”
Stuart McLeod, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund South East, said: “The impact of the First World War was far reaching, touching and shaping every corner of the UK and beyond. The Heritage Lottery Fund has already invested more than £82million in projects – large and small – that are marking this global Centenary; with our new small grants programme, we are enabling even more communities like those involved in Breaking the Myths to explore the continuing legacy of this conflict and help local young people in particular to broaden their understanding of how it has shaped our modern world”.
Helen Grant MP, Maidstone and The Weald, said: “I am delighted to support Diversity House’s ‘Africa and World War One’ project, particularly as former Minister responsible for the WW1 Centenary commemorations. This is precisely the kind of initiative the Government is looking for to highlight the contributions made by African communities in that terrible conflict. It will inform our younger generations of the sacrifice made by the many who fought so bravely and I look forward to seeing the project come to fruition.”
Gordon Henderson MP, Sittingbourne and Sheppey Constituency, said: “I congratulate Diversity House on winning this grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and wish them well with their project. During this time when we are remembering the sacrifice made by so many people during the First World War, it is important that we acknowledge the role played by people from many Commonwealth countries, including African countries. It is also important that young people understand the significance of the Great War and the debt we owe to those people of many races and colours who died fighting for Britain. This project will help get that message over.”
Diversity House was formally opened on the 16th of May 2007 with an office in Phoenix House, Central Avenue, Sittingbourne. A charitable organisation providing both community and prison-based services for diverse communities across Kent. The charity aims to promote community integration, re-integration, social inclusion and cohesion within the Swale and Kent communities. Read more..
About the Heritage Lottery Fund
Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk @heritagelottery @HLFSouthEast
For further information, images and interviews, please contact
Mrs Harshita Singh, Project Worker, Diversity House, 01795 420455, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tell us your WW1 story
Please tell us about your or anyone if you know and their Families First World War story, including stories about your relative’s involvement or any memories you have with you from WW1 time given by your parents or Grandparents. We would be glad to hear your stories and add it in our newsletter and on the website. Please email us your stories on email@example.com.
2nd June Conference
Swale Borough Council in Sittingbourne came alive to the cries of the forgotten heroes – men, women and children from Africa who sacrificed their lives and experienced so many decades of instability as a result of their involvement in the First World War.
In a Conference recognising the great contribution of Africa and the impact of that war on ordinary Africans a century later, entitled: ‘WW1 and Africa: Legacies of Conflicts’ hosted by Diversity House in Sittingbourne on 2nd June, delegates from all over the world gained first-hand insights on the topic and the extent to which the repercussions of the war are still adversely affecting the continent today.
Videos of Speakers from the Day
Please click the buttons below to view each speaker’s video
The Deputy Mayor of Swale, Councillor Samuel Koffie-Williams set the tone in his opening remarks when he noted that it was actually an African service man who fired the first shot in the earliest days of the war and that reverberations of that first shot are still being felt today throughout the continent. Meanwhile Speaker, Dr George Njung from Michigan University demonstrated how his native Cameroon had been turned upside down and experienced years of political conflict and instability as a direct result of the war in 1914, creating a minority Anglophone problem and huge challenges to the ensuing process of nation building.
History Teacher and PhD candidate with Birkbeck College, John Siblon revealed how his extensive research on war memorials built after 1914 throughout UK showed how successive British governments had intentionally excluded the memory of African servicemen even though the memory of servicemen and women from the dominions were included.
It was left to Bishop Nigel McCulloch from the Royal British Legion to admit in his presentation that commemoration ceremonies by Britain had been neglectful and dismissive of the African contribution and pledged to reverse the practice in years to come. He gave a big ‘Thank you’ to all those Africans who had been ignored by successive commemoration services.
Much needed light relief and entertainment was provided by Soulamayne Compo and Wantunara Dance Ensemble at intervals. Participants were encouraged to dance and celebrate the memory of African servicemen and the one million men, women, children included as ordinary civilians who died as a result of the war. Even the Mayor of Maidstone, Cllr Malcolm Greer threw all formalities out of the window when he joined the dancing and tried his hand at drumming.
Mrs Christine Locke, CEO of Diversity House summed up the mood of the conference perfectly when she gave her closing remarks. She reminded the audience that “the Breaking the Myths project was not about recrimination but about giving a balanced and inclusive history of WW1 so that our young people can feel a sense of belonging and pride that their ancestors played their part and made sacrifices for the freedoms we enjoy today.”
Finally, Kat Francois, a performance poet, tasked with the role of rounding up the conference gave a resounding performance of the poem she had just created, “Remember Me” which resonated with the audience so much so they gave her a standing ovation and left the conference on a high note. It was a perfect way to conclude the discussions and reflections of the day.