First World War commemorative programme to celebrate lives of County Durham soldiers

Plans for a new light installation to commemorate the lives of County Durham soldiers who died in the First World War are to be discussed by councillors next week.

On Wednesday 16 May, Cabinet members will hear proposals for the commissioned piece, which will be installed in Millennium Place to mark the centenary of the day the guns fell silent.

In addition, councillors will also be asked to support the plans for a reprise of the Durham Hymns, which were first performed at Durham Cathedral in 2016.

The suite of hymns, commissioned by the Northern Regional Brass Band Trust in partnership with Durham County Council, commemorates sacrifice, courage and endurance with lyrics by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy.

The popular scheme would include two performances at the Gala Theatre in Durham City on Sunday, 11 November, providing the opportunity for over 1000 people to experience the visual and musical tribute.

A variety of events are already scheduled as part of the council’s plans to mark the end of the First World War, including a Durham at War Open Conference on the theme of ‘lest we forget’, an exhibition featuring the work of female photographers in the field at Bishop Auckland Town Hall and a weekend programme of community heritage projects which will be presented at the Glebe Centre in Murton.

In addition, a memorial stone to the Durham Pals will be placed in the village of Bus les Artois at the Somme in time for its annual commemoration event on 30 June.

This year has already seen the re-location of the Victoria Cross memorial stone “For Valour” to Palace Green and the laying of individual VC commemorative stones for County Durham soldiers, including Lt George Burdon McKean in Willington and Lt Commander George Bradford in Bishop Auckland.

Schools across the county have also been holding a wide range of events connected to the First World War, with additional specialist training to support staff delivered via the Education Durham History networks.

Cllr Ossie Johnson, Cabinet member for tourism, culture, leisure and rural issues, said: “The end of the First World War is a hugely significant event in history and it is extremely important that we commemorate this anniversary in an appropriate way,

“We should never forget the contribution of our communities here in Durham, particularly those soldiers who fought on the frontline and the many who sacrificed their lives for the cause.”