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Completion of Heritage Lottery Funded First World War Centenary Project at TMAC

8 April 2016

Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre was awarded £9,800 for a dynamic youth dance project for Taunton Youth Dance Company (TYDC) to mark the Centenary of World War One in Somerset.



The project offered Taunton Youth Dance Company (TYDC) the opportunity to explore the centenary and specifically the experiences of women in Somerset through the medium of dance. Young dancers aged 15-25 had the opportunity to work with professional choreographer Adam Rutherford to create a new piece of choreography The Mechanics of War: Changing Roles – exploring the lives of Somerset women as well as creating several pieces of work for the dance platform War and Peace.



A major feature of the project was a new musical commission for Somerset. Composer Greg Harradine created a new musical commission to commemorate the centenary for Somerset based on documents and resources from the Somerset Heritage Centre: “Letters to the Frontline.” Commenting on his artistic approach to the project Greg noted: “I aimed to create a piece that mirrored the strange paradoxes of war – how it could seem to progress steadily on with no real sense of an end in sight, while at the same time rising and falling with periods of great upheaval alongside quieter breaks in the violence.” A printed copy of Letters to the Frontline was sent to every secondary school in Somerset along with a resource pack on Somerset Women during the First World War and a guide to creating choreography using a  historical stimulus.

The project also facilitated the launch of a Somerset-based dance company aKa Dance Theatre Company – Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre’s Company-in-Residence. Over 100 people applied to aKa’s audition call and the company led workshops across the county and beyond exploring the life of Kathleen Tacchi-Morris from RAF worker to ardent peace campaigner. Workshops highlighted the experiences of Somerset women alongside exploring with young students how to use historical stimulus as a basis for creating choreography and progressing their choreographic language.



Hundreds of young people were involved in the project: 23 Taunton Youth Dance Company members, 135 workshop participants at 7 different schools and colleges across the county, 50 university students and 101 dancers performing at the centenary dance platform – as well as those watching at the variety of performances staged.


Bolder Dance Company (Tacchi-Morris’s resident over 50s company) staged an incredible dance based on their own oral history and familial experiences of Somerset women during World War One: “Lines of Fortitude” – an intergenerational performance with members of The SPACE Company. Tacchi-Morris Director, Louise Lappin-Cook commented: “It was incredibly powerful seeing the choreography of young soldiers on stage and the impact on the women left behind as they grew older. There was a beautiful duet between partners and following the dance there was not a dry eye in the house. This for us symbolised the incredible and very personal engagement with the First World War that the project has created for participants and those we have shared the work with. It also symbolised how the project has brought such diverse groups together and the power of dance in really encouraging young people to engage with the physicality and emotion of the experiences of women during the First World War.”



Bolder also performed at a Cream Tea for 70 care home residents from across the county held at Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre last February and served by students from Heathfield Community School.


TYDC member Emma Stone commented: “I think it is incredibly important to commemorate the centenary of WWI – because if those people who fought for our country didn’t do that, where would we be today? They have completely changed history and everyone should be highly respectful to those who did fight for us, and also respectful for the families who stood by their decisions to go out and fight. I believe that everyone should know what the World Wars were and why people fought. Otherwise, it would just be forgotten and it would be as if it never happened when really, if it hadn’t happened life would be a lot different now.”


As well as the short film and project blog documenting the project TYDC also made a site specific film at Fox's Mill, Wellington which can be viewed here: