At the outbreak of war in 1914 Colchester was the Eastern Region Army HQ and thousands of new recruits reported to the Garrison for training. While exercising on Abbey Fields the guns of the Western Front could often be heard.
This expert account of the war years covers the role of Colchester as provider of soldiers, manufacturer of arms and equipment and later, as a vast hospital looking after the war wounded. It was here in Colchester that much of the early research was done into shell shock or post-traumatic stress disorder as it was eventually to become known.
Pictured are the cheeky postcards sold to the recruits – which led to a boom for the town’s post office. As winter approached women and children were busy knitting socks, gloves and scarves for the soldiers. In February 1915 a bomb fell in the tiny back garden of number 41 Butt Road. The damage was extensive but the only casualty found amongst the debris was a dead thrush.
The facts are brought to life with personal recollections and photographs giving a wonderfully rounded picture of life in Colchester during those difficult years.
Our current exhibition is a show by artist Wendy Bailey who lives and creates her art in Colchester, Essex. Regarding this new exhibition, A Sense of Place, Wendy Bailey says
‘I’m delighted to be invited to exhibit by the popular independent book shop Red Lion Books who contribute so much to the cultural and creative life of Colchester.”
‘A Sense of Place’ is about people and places in the landscape of East Anglia. Colchester countryside, Mersea Island, Abberton Reservoir and the nearby Suffolk Coast are favourite subjects for watercolours, drawings and oil paintings.
A highlight of the show with visitors will surely be Wendy’s unique and popular interactive art experience ‘be An Angel.
Be An Angel is a huge painting of Angel’s Wings spanning two metres wide, in glorious shades of gold adorned with glittering jewels.
- A golden Angelic Throne is in position for visitors to sit for a while and relax, maybe read a book.
- Many people experience a pleasant feeling of relaxation, a special sense of joy and peace, which Be An Angel artwork seems to provide.
“Be An Angel is only complete as a work of art when someone sits on the Angel Throne and completes the image” says Wendy “many say ‘How lovely, I feel so relaxed now’.
Be An Angel provides a great photo opportunity – either for a friend to take your picture or you take a Selfie. Then post your photo on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #BeAnAngel, @wendybaileypr
As enthusiastic supporters of World Book Day we are involved with several local schools and always tend to order too many copies of each yearly crop of fantastic WBD titles. After all, the last thing we ever want to do is to run out! It does mean that after the dust has settled on the WBD events we are always left with extra stock. We have found some good uses for them over the years but the latest is maybe the best – a link with the local library service who take books into prisons.
For children, the occasional visit to their father in prison can be a difficult, awkward and daunting experience. The unfriendly formality of the visiting hall is not a helpful environment for a quality time together. Essex County Libraries have recently started to run Family Library Time sessions in Chelmsford Prison where fathers can spend time reading with their children in a much more welcoming environment. It is a place where children have a chance to relax and actually enjoy the time with their fathers. Our surplus WBD books mean that prisoners can give their visiting children a book to take away. A book to read and enjoy which is also a tangible reminder of their visit with their absent father.
Research has shown how important it is for parents in prison to maintain family relationships. It plays a big part in reducing the likelihood of reoffending. So, this is a brilliant partnership. Over 500 surplus WBD books, built up over years, are out of our stock room and getting into the hands of children – and in the process strengthening the family ties that help keep society healthy.
Here is a link to Essex County Council’s website post on this initiative.