A WW1 Writer in Residence at Armley Mills

Robert held writing workshops at Armley Mills, Leeds, focusing on local First World War stories.


As a writer of children’s books I normally take workshops with the under elevens. But my short Writer’s Residency at Armley Mills Industrial Museum last week enabled me to work with the over elevens for a change! Some participants in my creative writing workshops were over fifty years over eleven! 

Whilst children often have few inhibitions about creative writing us grown-ups are sometimes reluctant to put pen to paper. But over two days, after slow, reluctant starts some truly exceptional writing and poetry was created inspired by the Women, Work and War exhibition and the stories it tells. 

Inspiration and WW1 history
A visit to Armley Mills Industrial Museum more than two years ago inspired me to write my up and coming novel, Troublesome Aunts, and last week the exhibition inspired people of all ages to write accounts and stories based upon their own knowledge of World War One, how it affected family members and the social and economic impact that the conflict had on women in the UK. 

The Barnbow Munitions Factory features heavily in the exhibition as it does in my book and it was amazing to meet someone who had worked at Barnbow, albeit in the 1970s when the site produced tanks for Vickers. The tragic events of December 6th 1916 were really brought to life by the exhibition for me and the visitors and I really hope Leeds Museums will commemorate the anniversary of the tragic loss of the 35 lives later this year. 

Discovering WW1 stories
During the final session one lady who found writing difficult wrote a moving piece about how the exhibition opened her eyes to what women, not only in Britain but in her home city of Leeds, went through and achieved in World War One. But she finished by stating that she wasn’t surprised about what the women in Leeds achieved as she knows that women can do anything!

You can visit the Women Work and War exhibition at Armley Mills until 24 September 2017. Find out more on our website.

By Robert Bullock

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