Speke And The Sea (Liverpool, November 2018)

Over 7 days of workshops at Western Approaches HQ, Year 6 pupils from primary schools across South Liverpool will create a performance piece with acclaimed percussive guitar trio Ex-Easter Island Head, exploring stories from Liverpool’s past, and how those stories are connected to our lives today.

Where?
Western Approaches is a unique bunker complex, tucked away in the basement of an office block in Liverpool’s financial district. Despite its unassuming exterior, Western Approaches is arguably one of the most historically significant rooms in Britain.

The Speke and the Sea project will explore the social history behind Western Approaches, and will focus on the lives of the remarkable people who worked there – notably the young women of the WAAF and WRNS.

Western Approaches’ main purpose was to process the latest intel, interpret and understand it, and use it to map the locations of German U-Boats. The staff would then have to make decisions based on this information – factoring in its reliability and its source – before communicating those decisions across the world to troops at sea.

We will focus on the critical and discerning nature of this work, and will draw parallels with the way in which we learn about heritage and history today. A part of this, we will consider how we remember World War II, and the impact of that memory on the identity of Liverpool. As well as learning about the young women working at Western Approaches – who they were, what they did and why they did it – we will also learn from them: their ability to assess the reliability of a source of information. This critical thinking is an increasingly vital skill in an era of social media and ‘fake news’. For the WAAF and WRNS at Western Approaches, this skill made the difference between life or death for thousands of people, every day – and ultimately changed the course of history.

The project also includes a unique trip to Liverpool Central Library and Record Office, for a behind-the-scenes tour, and exciting activities from some of the archivists who look after Liverpool’s many tales, for future generations. While there, participating children will be able to explore the stories they have uncovered at Western Approaches, and, at the end of the 7 days, they will perform their piece alongside Ex-Easter Island Head, at Liverpool Central Library.

Who?
Ex-Easter’s work is richly textural, mechanical and industrious, and reflects the hustle and bustle of Western Approaches at work. Their work is also playful and accessible, and their malletting style presents a challenging but exciting new world of possibilities for participating children.

Why?
The project is designed to build confidence and social skills as pupils transition to secondary education. Through music and arts workshops, the group will engage with cross-curricular subject matter, including literacy and history. By the project’s end, they will have created and performed a piece that is truly theirs, alongside some of the UK’s finest professional artists.

Some examples of workshops that the children might participate in include:

Musical activities: designing and building instruments using household materials (e.g. wooden crates, funnels, hose pipe); writing graphic scores; experimenting with electronic music (e.g. recording and manipulating found sounds).
Performance activities: exploring stories using theatre exercises (e.g. freeze frames, hot seating).
Literacy activities: treasure hunts with riddles and clues to find stories hidden in and around the workshop location; personal diaries to record thoughts and ideas, with some structured questions to encourage reflection and writing practice.
Cross-curricular activities: Children can consolidate facts and information learned by responding artistically, and telling their own stories about life in 21st century Liverpool.

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