World War One Commemoration Weekend at the Tall Ship

Rebecca Innes from The Tall Ship at Riverside tells us about a recent project to commemorate World War One:

‘Back in November 2017 The Tall Ship at Riverside’s Learning and Curatorial teams grouped together to devise one of our most exciting projects to date. 

Although the ship already had a very successful existing schools learning programme in place we wanted a new addition to our programme to keep us vibrant and innovative. 

It was decided after much discussion that the topics and themes surrounding Glasgow’s shipbuilding communities during World War One were underexplored in our formal learning programme. This also coincided perfectly with the centenary year commemorations and allowed me to apply for funding from Museum Galleries Scotland WW1 Commemoration Fund. 

On an otherwise uneventful Monday in May, I opened my emails to receive the good news that the grant was successful, we had been given the total of £11,510 to develop our new learning workshops and free WW1 Commemoration weekend, bringing the overall total for the project to £15,000. 

We enlisted the expertise of professional storyteller Dan Serridge to support in the creative development of the project. We had worked with Dan previously on projects before, but nothing on this scale and the brief was far from simple:

‘Create the ‘script’ for a formal learning programme for upper primary pupils that explores both civilian and naval experiences in an attempt to apprehend how the effects of war at home and away shaped the city and its people. Using the framework of the Curriculum for Excellence, examine both the historical details of WW1, but also evoke meaningful senses of emotion, sensation and resonance through multi-sensory interpretation. Explore themes prevalent in WW1 and which resonate with today’s culture, such as hierarchal class structures, gender roles and politics and deliver them through a variety of media, incorporating learning from objects, artist-created audio-visual and sensory installations, first person testimonies, historical accounts, dress-up and role-play.’ 

Training with Dan

Dan came back to us with more than we could have imagined. Drawing upon the rich stories and connections the ship and Glasgow has with WW1, he devised a workshop that completely fulfilled the brief and captured the essence of what we wanted to achieve. Dan has struck a fine balance of being sympathetic to schools and museum’s needs while pushing the boundaries of what the pupils can achieve and how the ship can be used as a platform for learning. 

Throughout the hour and a half long workshop pupils explore numerous decks of the ship with the characters Albert and Lizzie. The character, Albert Bestic, is based upon the real life seafarer who sailed on both the Lusitania and briefly on The Tall Ship while Lizzie’s is based upon Elizabeth Robertson, a WWI ammunitions worker from Cardonald. 

Working with such an imaginative and creative freelancer from out with the organisation gave us the opportunity to view the ship and its potential in a completely different perspective. Highlights include the shadow puppetry elements, the use of the ship’s previously unexploited spaces for learning purposes and the depth of the learning objectives. 

Performance artist and visiting lecturer at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Murray Wason was approached to produce the audio-visual component of the workshop. The result is an eight minute film depicting a range of imagery, including the sinking of the Lusitania and footage of the Glaswegian ammunition factories spliced together with the evocative sounds of the Clyde and traditional folk songs. 

We were also fortunate in that we had within our learning team an extremely talented, former theatre costume designer, Vera Rennie. Vera’s meticulous attention to detail and historical accuracy in creating the children’s role play hats and the Learning Assistant’s costumes has added a further dimension to the project that ensures it is as immersive as possible. 

The result of working with all these creative talents produced a workshop that is unlike any other. Although I do not doubt that we could have created a fantastic workshop ourselves it would be nothing of the magnitude and innovation of what was produced. Although, at times, we have had to scale back our vision and reassess what is sustainable and achievable, having the combination of the creative input, the experienced learning team and the historical resources has produced a workshop that is truly unique and inspiring. 

The workshop has proved extremely popular with seventeen bookings so far for this academic year, making it our most popular workshop to date. 

To complement the workshop and to mark the end of WWI, money was also designated within the grant to produce a WWI Commemoration Experience over the centenary weekend. Here, members of the public had the opportunity to interact with the characters featured in the workshops alongside numerous others including a WWI voluntary nurse, an army officer, Morse radio officers and a housewife. 

Visitors also had the opportunity to; handle and view original objects from our collection, play shuffleboard on the deck, make a poppy for our commemorative net, sing-a-long to WWI piano tunes 

The event was designed to enhance the pop-up exhibition which focused on the roles of civilian’s during the war as an opposed to the military services provided. 

Turn out and feedback was fantastic with over 2000 people attending over the weekend!’

If you want to tell SMF about something your institution has been up to please let us know! We are always looking for guest blogs, if you’re interested please email

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s