From the Department of Education
HUNDREDS of students are this month gaining an insight into the lives and artistic talents of World War Two internees.
To mark the 70th anniversary of the opening of the Isle of Man’s internment camps, the Sayle Gallery, in conjunction with the Ben Uri Gallery, the London Jewish Museum of Art, is hosting an exhibition entitled Forced Journeys: Artists in Exile in Britain c.1933-45.
Since the exhibition opened, students have been able to further their learning about World War Two and internment on the Isle of Man and witness how internees used the scant materials available to them to express their feelings and continue with their art despite their circumstances.
St Ninian’s High School’s 251 Year 9 students visited the exhibition over the course of a week and it proved a useful addition to work they already do on World War Two, especially the Holocaust. The exhibition also linked in well to the recent Anne Frank [+ you} exhibition, held in Peel, which they visited.
A number of the pupils have been studying internment on the Isle of Man and these studies include a tour of Camp P, better known as Hutchinson Square. St Ninian’s have got involved in a Douglas Borough Corporation scheme to design a memorial plaque to the internees of Hutchinson Square and the visit to the Forced Journeys exhibition has provided them with some ideas.
Year 9 student Jamie Ward said: ‘The exhibition was really interesting and I would not have expected them to have been able to produce such quality work in a camp.’ Steph Foxton, also of Year 9, said: ‘The coloured worksheets, showing the artists’ background and highlighting their time in the camp, were really helpful and explained their different artistic styles.’
The Manx Telecomputer Bus, manned by ICT teacher Alex Townsend, has enabled more than 150 primary school pupils from all over the Island to visit the exhibition and then record their thoughts on an online blog.
The Department of Education and Children bus has also provided a Forced Journeys Roadshow for other secondary schools, visiting Ballakermeen High School, Ramsey Grammar School and Queen Elizabeth II High School.
Ramsey pupil Isaac Newman wrote about Kurt Schwitter’s Portrait of Fred Uhlman: ‘This picture really stands out to me because it is very lifelike. I think it shows how dull life was in a camp. I like how the colours and tone almost blend in with the wall. The artist must have been very talented because it looks very 3D. There is a shining glint in the man’s eye and I think it shows how he is trapped. I imagine him being trapped in a room with no door or windows. I suppose that’s what being interned feels like. I really like all the different shades of colours rather than one flat colour. It makes me sad just looking at it.’
Students have also been given copies of a booklet, compiled by the Manx Heritage Foundation to accompany the exhibition, about how life in the Isle of Man changed when war broke out. It was resourced from Manx National Heritage archives and reproduces actual newspaper stories from the era of World War Two, a valuable extra resource for teachers and students alike.
Jo Callister, Advisory Teacher for the Manx Curriculum, said: ‘World War Two and its history and effect on the Isle of Man is already studied in the Islands schools so this was an ideal opportunity for the children to further that link and experience at first hand some of the history from Manx internment camps.
‘The children were fascinated by what the artists used to create their work and all the educational support provided by Manx National Heritage, the Manx Heritage Foundation and the Manx Telecomputer Bus has really added to the experience.’
As well as visiting the Sayle Gallery in the Villa Marina arcade, some schools have made the short walk up to the Manx Museum, past the Sefton Hotel, which in 1940 was briefly commandeered along with other hotels and guesthouses in Douglas and elsewhere on the Island as an internment camp.
At the Manx Museum, Manx National Heritage is providing schools with educational workshops to tie in with the 70th anniversary of the opening of the camps. Children attending ‘The Homefront’ are experiencing rationing, wartime entertainment, life in an Anderson shelter and internement crafts.
Jo Callister and Alex Townsend also produced a 30-minute video tour of the exhibition, in which David Wertheim, who has been involved in the organisation of the exhibition, describes the stories behind many of the pictures for the benefit of schools. The video has been posted onto the DEC’s schools’ website, allowing children all over the Island to see the exhibition.
Forced Journeys: Artists in Exile in Britain c.1933-45 continues at the Sayle Gallery until 23 May.