Sunday, 4 June 2017

Guildhall Art Gallery - 'Echoes Across the Century' - until 16 July 2017

I have not been to the Guildhall Art Gallery for a long time, on entering it was like meeting an old friend, who gave me a warm welcome. The new exhibition, which opened March, so was somewhat tardy in getting there, is a sight to behold. A subject which generates much emotion, it has been beautifully conceived, and at every turn you are enveloped in the pathos of the subject, but also delighted by the attention to minute detail. 

A cabinet of curiosities all with emotional relevance to the loss of those brave young men. The detail and creativity of those involved is to be lauded, the time and patience to create individual pieces which come together as a cohesive, delightful, exciting and yet, a sympathetic and respectful whole. You will discover it becomes a personal journey, through the private letters and belongings of those who did not come home. Do not forget to leave your message on the tree.

Echoes Across the Century is a new, free exhibition at City of London Corporation’s Guildhall Art Gallery commemorating the 100th anniversary of WW1 (1914-18 to 2014-18), funded by the National Lottery.

Created by professional artist and set designer Jane Churchill, this exhibition - her London debut- sensitively brings to life the human impact of the First World War through heartfelt personal stories and highly emotive, beautiful pieces of artwork. Churchill has created an immersive ‘behind the scenes’ experience that provides a fascinating glimpse into what was a very difficult and harsh reality for many. Interwoven throughout the exhibition is the artwork of over 200 students aged between six and seventeen. 

...thousands of men pinned forever to the map of France like months ....

Echoes Across The Century is a collaboration between Livery Companies and schools delivered for Livery Schools Link, with Guildhall Art Gallery and supported by National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
Housed inside Churchill’s set design that transports us to a First World War trench, the walk-through exhibition explores the stories of soldiers, ordinary people supporting the war effort ‘behind the scenes’ and the grief-stricken families, friends and lovers that were left behind. Churchill was inspired by the touching story of her great great uncle, Second Lieutenant William Goss Hicks, and the fiancée he left behind in Kent after his death in France nearly 100 years ago on 3rd July 1917. 

The exhibition features over 600 objects through which real and imagined tales are told through heritage artefacts and reactive ‘response’ artworks.
The project benefited from a grant of £99,800 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and is the gallery’s first exhibition to operate as a large-scale installation.  

Degrees of Separation
Upon entering the exhibition, visitors are immediately immersed into Jane Churchill’s own compelling installation Degrees of Separation which explores the love story between Churchill’s great great uncle William Goss Hicks and his fiancée Jessie Ellman. Highlights include Hicks’ personal effects as well as stunning moth assemblages, sculpture, collections of cased objects, sepia photographs, paper boots and an original saddle that survived the Battle of the Somme. 

A trench of young talent
Under the tuition of Jane Churchill and producer Alison Truphet, students from 14 London schools worked with the City of London’s livery companies to create touching emotional responses associated with not only the trench life of soldiers, but all those supporting the war and who were affected by it. Key pieces include recruitment posters, paintings of ambulances and spectacles, playing cards, profound diary extracts, a sky full of war-time planes and a stunning peace memorial. Illustrative artworks by Churchill are interwoven amongst the students’ work, telling personal stories of love and loss. 

Jane Churchill, Curator of Echoes Across the Century said: 
“This has been a very personal experience for me as I have always had a connection to WW1 and my inspiration for the project came from the terribly sad story of my own great great uncle and the affect his death had on those he left behind. Working with such wonderful and talented students has been deeply rewarding as they all embraced the project and understood how art could be used to express both history and emotion. They developed independent thinking and confidence as they worked with me to explore different skills and techniques to bring these stories to life.” 

Saddle on loan from the Saddlers Company- survived the Battle of the Somme

Visitors are encouraged to share their thoughts about the exhibition by writing on cards provided and hanging them by the entrance.  Free workshops will allow visitors to create their own artworks in response to the exhibition on 14thJune. Free artist talk led by Jane Churchill will also take place at the gallery on 7th July between 1pm and 2pm. 
The City of London Corporation, which owns and manages Guildhall Art Gallery, invests £80m every year in heritage and cultural activities of all kinds. It is the UK’s largest funder of culture after the government, the BBC, and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
For more information or to book a place on a workshop, visit

 Opening times: 10am - 5pm (Monday – Saturday), 12pm - 4pm (Sunday)

About Jane Churchill

She is a maker of imaginary worlds and often accesses the creativity of others. An intuitive seer of what is needed in the creative process within her own work and those she works with.
Her background includes theatre set design and creation, installations and exhibitions.
She has been resident artist and consultant with organisations, community groups and schools for over ten years and curated a gallery in Kent for six years.
Her work has seen her develop and deliver hundreds of projects in engagement through the arts. She has worked with museums to illuminate heritage.

About Alison Truphet

Involved in education, since 1996, her role evolved from leading a languages department in a secondary school to becoming an educational projects consultant in 2007.
As administrator for Livery Schools Link from 2009 to 2016, she increased membership, raised its profile and developed a programme of annual events for students and teachers including an annual education conference and careers events.
She is passionate about developing students’ sense of adventure and extending their horizons beyond the classroom.

She has 10 years’ experience devising and leading educational projects in expressive arts, international exchanges and travel, community engagement, careers awareness, design and history.

Special thanks to Rosemedia Group - for detailed copy of the exhibition.