Imperial War Museums tells the stories of ordinary people whose lives have been affected by war and conflict. This resource looks at how evacuees and refugees have used literacy and creative writing to reflect on their experience and express their feelings.
An important part of IWM’s collections is the extensive archive of letters, diaries and oral histories which reveal individuals' perspectives of life during periods of conflict. From the First World War to the present day, these writings and recordings can give us details about daily life which may well be otherwise unknown. They are a unique resource that provides a vital insight into how people felt during that time.
Content Warning: Before you watch or use this resource, we advise you that the content aims to help students explore challenging emotions around experiences of evacuee and refugee children living away from their parents, and the holocaust.
Within IWM’s archives is a collection of letters and objects from Annie Bankier - a 16-year-old Austrian-Jewish refugee. Annie journeyed to the UK as part of the government’s Kindertransport initiative of 1938/39 in which almost 10,000 mostly Jewish children from Nazi Germany, and Nazi occupied countries such as Czechoslovakia, Austria and Poland were brought over to stay in British foster homes and hostels. Sadly, many of these children were the only members of their families who survived the Holocaust.
IWM approached spoken-word artist Hafsah Bashir for her creative response to Annie’s letters and objects which resulted in the poem ‘Goodbye for the Moment’ – the title taken from how Annie signs off her correspondences to her family.
Students are asked to think about what their home means to them and produce a poem based on their thoughts about home.
Explore the sources
Explore the sources
In the first video, introduced by IWM expert Ngaire Bushell, students can find out more about what the words evacuee and refugee mean. They will also hear Hafsah recite her poem ‘Goodbye for the Moment’.
Get creative with Hafsah
Get creative with Hafsah
In the second video Hafsah shares with us her artistic process, offering a chance for students to take a ‘behind the scenes’ glimpse at the way she works creatively.
These notes are designed to give you all the background information you need, to introduce your students to this resource with confidence
Find out more about how this resource is mapped against some of the themes and content topics found in the curricula for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
As a class watch the first of the films. Students should be encouraged to give their responses to its content which could be recorded individually or in small groups. Discussion points might focus on what they already understand about forced migration and wartime evacuation in Britain; what they consider to be the value of diaries and letters as historical sources; what are the advantages and disadvantages are of using these as historical documents. You may want to open up the small group reflections into a whole class discussion so that the students feel they have had the opportunity to analyse the historical context of the IWM collection items that inspired Hafsah’s response.
Replay the part of the film where Hafsah reads her creative response. In responding to her work students may want to identify the themes that Hafsah chose to explore, what they think she found inspiring in the IWM items she looked at and think about how seeing Hafsah perform her response makes them feel. What do think that Hafsah was trying to achieve with her response?
Having had the chance to reflect on what they thought of Hafsah’s way of responding to the historical documents, students should now watch the second film where Hafsah herself talks about her approach. It may be beneficial to play the film twice for students and on the second time they note down key words and phrases that Hafsah uses to describe her method of working. These could then be discussed and recorded as a mind map as a way of supporting students to identify one way to structure a piece of creative writing.
Hafsah is providing an often unexplored aspect into the workings of a writer’s mind; do the students think that this is useful? Is there anything that Hafsah describes in her practice that they do when they are writing? Is there anything surprising about Hafsah’s way of writing that they had not considered before?
Having analysed the historical context of the documents Hafsah found in IWM’s Collections and thought about the process that Hafsah used to create a response to them, students could write, recite, perform their own creative response.
The stimulus for these responses could be one of the documents that Hafsah was inspired by, with students’ writing being scaffolded by reference to the mind map/ analysis of Hafsah’s own workings. Students may wish to develop this writing practice by empathising with Annie’s circumstances or by using an aspect of their own experience or feelings about home to create their poems.
Students could share their poems in pairs/ small groups, and this could be a chance for strategies around drafting to be explored. Students could also perform their poems aloud; how can performance change the written word? In discussing the finished poems students could be asked to think of them as historical documents in their own right, what would people discover from them if they were reading them in 50 years’ time? Are they art or are they history, or are they both?