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Maria Miller sets out how government will mark First World War Centenary in 2014

UK-wide cultural programme, Service for Commonwealth leaders at Glasgow Cathedral and Battlefield visits for schools planned

A service for Commonwealth leaders at Glasgow Cathedral, a candle-lit vigil in Westminster Abbey and an event at the St Symphorien Military Cemetery in Belgium will start the programme to mark the centenary of the First World War next year, Culture Secretary Maria Miller announced today.

Details of a four-year nationwide cultural programme, to be directed by Jenny Waldman - Creative Producer for the highly successful London 2012 Festival - and plans for a programme of battlefields visits for schoolchildren were also set out.
Maria Miller said:

We have produced a fitting programme of events to remember and mark the actions of men and women from Britain, the Commonwealth and all the nations involved in the First World War.

On 4 August 1914 we entered the war - a war like no other the world had seen. It is right we remember and mark the centenary of this momentous day in the world’s history, bringing its importance alive for younger generations and remembering the price that was paid by all involved.

The opening day of the centenary, 4 August 2014 will see:

  • A service of commemoration at Glasgow Cathedral for Commonwealth leaders on the day after the closing ceremony for the Commonwealth Games to recognise the contribution and sacrifices made to the war by Britain and those countries who fought alongside Britain as part of the Empire
  • An event at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission St Symphorien Military Cemetery in Mons, Belgium, close to where some of the early action of the war took place. Men believed to be the first and last Commonwealth casualties of the war are buried there. The cemetery has an equal number of British and German soldiers and reconciliation will be the theme of the event; and
  • A candle-lit vigil of prayer and solemn reflection to be held at Westminster Abbey finishing, with the last candle being extinguished, at 11pm - the moment war was declared. The Government is working with various churches, faiths and other organisations to see if the Vigil could be replicated around the country.

Battlefield Visits for Schoolchildren

The Department for Education and the Department for Communities and Local Government are also jointly funding a project which will provide the opportunity for two pupils and one teacher from every state funded secondary school in England to participate in battlefield tours of the western front from spring 2014 to March 2019. This will be a high quality educational project which will strengthen participants’ knowledge and understanding of the First World War as well as giving them the opportunity to develop related projects in their communities. The Government went out to tender for an organisation to deliver this £5.3m project, and the Institute of Education and STS School Travel Service were the successful bidder subject to the contract being signed, it has been announced today.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said:

Remembering the huge losses of people and sacrifices made across the Commonwealth during the First World War is something that will unite the whole country next year. It is vitally important that we talk to all communities about this period in history as we mark the centenary.

We have a duty to educate future generations about the First World War to ensure that the role our Armed Forces played, and continue to play, in defending the liberties we take for granted today are remembered.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said:

The First World War touched every village and town in Britain. Millions served and almost 900,000 United Kingdom subjects died in action. The loss to this country and to countless families was unimaginable and must not be forgotten.

That is why it is important that a new generation should be encouraged to remember the sacrifice of so many.

I am proud that we are giving pupils from every state-funded secondary school the chance to visit battlefields like the Somme and Passchendaele.

I hope their experiences will live long in their own memories and they will share what they have seen.

Cultural programme

There will also be a programme of cultural events as part of the centenary commemorations.

Jenny Waldman, with 20 years’ experience as a producer of large scale international productions - including for Tate, Southbank Centre, Somerset House Trust and most recently as Creative Producer for the London 2012 Festival - has been appointed director of this programme and will work with cultural organisations and partners across Britain to deliver it over the four years. She will report to a Centenary Cultural Programme Board, chaired by Vikki Heywood CBE, Chairman of the RSA and former Executive Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and including Tony Hall, Director General of the BBC.

The Programme will have a budget of around £10m of lottery money which will be matched by fundraising, and will be focused on three main periods: August 2014, July 2016 and Autumn 2018. The Centenary Cultural Programme team will work alongside IWM (Imperial War Museums) and will be hosted at their flagship museum, IWM London.

The government is also launching a new website at dedicated to the centenary. This will feature all the latest news about the government’s plans for marking the centenary, and act as a gateway to what others are doing. Together with Imperial War Museums (IWM), the government is making available a special First World War Centenary logo for non-commercial use by individuals, organisations, special-interest groups, companies and charities to mark their own centenary events and commemorative activity.

Dr Andrew Murrison MP, the Prime Minister’s Special Representative for the Centenary Commemoration of the First World War, said:

The Centenary of the First World War invites exploration of its causes, conduct and consequences. The country went to war believing its cause was just and the service of its citizens shapes our world today. A hundred years on, it is our duty to reflect on and learn from their lives and times.

Notes to Editors

Today’s announcement follows a speech in October 2012 by the Prime Minister David Cameron where he set out the UK’s approach to marking the centenary.

Across the four years of the centenary, the government will lead the nation in acts of commemoration. In addition to 4 August, other, key dates will be marked including: the centenaries of the Gallipoli landings, the Battle of Jutland, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the first day of Passchendaele and, finally, Armistice Day. Planning for these events is currently underway. More than £50m has been committed to marking the centenary. Grants towards the new First World War galleries at the Imperial War Museum, and £1 million from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) to save HMS Caroline, the last surviving warship from the Battle of Jutland, based in Belfast, have already been announced. The IWM continues to fundraise for the First World War Galleries which will open in summer 2014.

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has so far awarded £12millon to support a range of First World War projects, both large and small. An additional £6million is now available through HLF’s small grants programme, First World War: then and now to help communities mark the Centenary of the First World War.

Not for profit cultural and educational organisations are encouraged to join the First World War Centenary Partnership, led by IWM. The Partnership is a growing network of over 1,000 local, regional, national and international non-for-profit groups and organisations with plans to commemorate the centenary. Becoming a member of the Partnership at is free and provides access to a wealth of First World War expertise, resources and the logo.

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