This report by Josephine Burns based on documents and data analysis by Morris Hargreaves McIntyre, summarises 14-18 NOW’s five-year programme and tells the story of a unique undertaking that brought together art and heritage with a vision ‘to support the creation of artworks by contemporary artists, to engage and stimulate the UK public in fresh and engaging ways that will lead to new perspectives on the First World War and its resonance today.’
Conceived by the UK government as part of a wider programme to mark the centenary, 14-18 NOW centred on three key moments: August 2014 (Anniversary of the Declaration of War), July 2016 (the Battle of the Somme), and the Armistice in November 2018.
The overview captures the experiences of those involved and the main points from the extensive evaluations, distilling the findings and setting out the story of this five-year programme - its purpose, how it was done, what was achieved, what significant changes resulted, and what will remain and might happen in the future. Behind these headlines is a wealth of documentation and data analysis undertaken by independent evaluators Morris Hargreaves McIntyre, along with inputs from artists, the views of participants and partners, reflections and information from the 14-18 NOW Board and team, and illustrated by reference to many of the artworks; details of all these are available at www.1418now.org.uk.
The conjoining of contemporary arts with heritage is not new but the scale and ambition of this undertaking was ground-breaking. The vision depended on forging connections between heritage - its rich historical knowledge and collections - with the imaginations of the artists to make vital the memory of that time in our history and its many consequences. The decision taken by 14-18 NOW’s Board and Executive to realise this vision through the commissioning of new work was not without its risks and challenges - only when a new artwork is complete and shown is its value and success realised. That the programme engaged so many people and organisations across the UK and beyond, and at the same time won considerable critical acclaim, is a remarkable success story.
Over the three seasons the programme encompassed 107 commissions which produced 269 new artworks in more than 220 locations across the UK from the Outer Hebrides to Cornwall; it reached 35 million people through the work of 420 artists from 40 countries, and was delivered with the support of 580 arts, heritage and community partners.
“From the poetry of Siegfried Sassoon to the paintings of Paul Nash, art has provided a prism through which generations have seen the First World War. 100 years later, 14-18 NOW invited contemporary artists to forge fresh connections with the war and the period 1914-18. The artists’ responses were bold and revealing, engaging large numbers of people across the UK in extraordinary arts experiences and creating fresh perspectives on the lasting impact of a con ict that changed the world.”
Jenny Waldman, Director 14-18 NOW