Take me back to dear old Blighty

Cllr Dan Price, Blighty Club
Cllr Dan Price with year 6 pupils from Oakwood Avenue Primary School enjoying the school's own special Blighty Club.
Published: Tuesday, 23rd October 2018

Warrington needs YOU to help commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War, in a special project made possible by a grant of £10,000 from Heritage Lottery Fund.

The council and partners are holding a range of commemoration events from later this month, under the banner of ‘Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty’ and local people are being invited to get involved.

A focal point of the commemorations will be the re-creation of ‘Blighty Clubs’, in Warrington town centre and in neighbourhoods across the borough, following research carried out by Culture Warrington, as part of its four-year calendar of events to commemorate the war.

Blighty Clubs were established throughout Britain at the end of the war, as a place for returning soldiers to meet, play cards, reminisce and enjoy music and impromptu performances. Warrington’s Club was a valuable meeting space for soldiers from the area, and even welcomed George Formby Senior for a special performance.

The clubs are being reborn in Warrington during the months of October and November, to mark the centenary. A town centre Blighty Club will run from 29 October, through to Remembrance Sunday on 11 November, in Holy Trinity Church, near to Golden Square shopping centre. Open to all, every day, from 10am-12 noon, it will see the church’s stunning interior transformed, to take people back to the time of the Great War. Visitors will be able to enjoy sing-a-longs, poetry, music performances, talks and more.

Meanwhile, the council’s neighbourhoods team is co-ordinating a huge number of Blighty Clubs in Warrington’s communities. All community groups are being invited to rebrand their regular sessions as Blighty Clubs leading up to 11 November, by sharing music, memories and social activities of the time. Blighty Club Boxes are being loaned to groups to support them, containing bunting and memorabilia. More than 30 community groups have signed-up to take part.

Warrington Borough Council’s executive Board Member for Culture and Partnerships, Cllr Dan Price, said: “It’s so important, in this momentous year, that we come together to preserve the memories and heritage of the people who lived through the First World War. That’s why I’m delighted that Warrington has been successful in securing Heritage Lottery Funding for these commemoration events.

“The recreation of the Blighty Clubs will give local people a fascinating insight into what was a real lifeline for soldiers returning from the war. The clubs will give everyone the chance to drop in, share memories, tell war stories they may have about family and friends and enjoy music and entertainment. In the spirit of the original Blighty Clubs, visitors to the town centre club may even fancy entertaining visitors by playing Holy Trinity’s grand piano.

“And there is so much more happening in Warrington, leading up to Remembrance Sunday, including exhibitions, performances and talks. This is a hugely important cultural and heritage project for Warrington, and I’m looking forward to many, many local people getting involved.”

The Blighty Clubs are just part of a packed programme of commemoration events taking place. An exhibition at Warrington Museum and Art Gallery, entitled ‘Peace at Last’, opens on Saturday 10 November. It will be the museum’s final WWI commemorative exhibition, providing visitors with the opportunity to explore what life was like for soldiers returning home from war and how life in Warrington changed forever.

A range of mementos and ephemera will be on display alongside loans from National Museums Liverpool and Cheshire Records Office, will allow visitors to see items not usually held at Warrington Museum.

Accompanying the exhibition, there will be a series of schools workshops, from 12-16 November, giving children the opportunity to learn about what the First World War meant to the people of Warrington.

Maureen Banner, chair of the board for Culture Warrington, the charity which runs Pyramid and Parr Hall and Warrington Museum and Art Gallery, said: “It’s really important that as an organisation Culture Warrington promotes recognition of commemorations like this.

“We hope to highlight the importance of the war even a century later and give people an opportunity to come together to mark the anniversary. We must leave a legacy which can be appreciated for generations to come.”

There will also be a special, live theatre event taking place in and around Old Market Square on Saturday 3 November, at 12.30pm and 2pm. Put together by the award-winning ‘Not Too Tame’ theatre group, the performance will tell the stories of local people involved in WWI.

Local people aged 14 to 114 who would like to be part of the performance – whether through performing, writing, stage managing or playing music – should email info@nottootame.com, or simply turn up at one of the rehearsals, which take place every Monday and Wednesday, throughout October, at 6.30pm, in the former Sports Direct Unit in Golden Square.

For more details of the Blighty Club at Holy Trinity Church, and the full programme of events, pop into the church to pick up a leaflet, or alternatively, email culture@warrington.gov.uk. To find out if there is a Blighty Club at a community venue near you, contact Barbara Parratt e-mail bparratt@warrington.gov.uk or call 01925 818017.