The Trench – Commemorating the Centenary of World War 1
“We thought the whole production was excellent and the whole ‘experience’ from ‘enlisting’ to the review of soldiers and exhibition at the end was excellent. The acting was superb and a measure of this was when at the end of the performance it is announced that an amnesty had been declared. There was no cheering or celebrations from the participants and the journey back on the train was very quiet. This was very true and accurate from many of the records I have researched, yet nobody had asked the participants to keep quiet, it was purely the impact of the performance. The singing and the cheering of the soldiers on their way out but no welcome back was sadly so true.” Review of the Trench by an audience member
As part of Cornwall’s First World War commemorations in 2018, Collective Arts Theatre Company, Bodmin Keep and Bodmin & Wenford Steam Railway presented an intense and immersive theatrical experience based in a specially-built trench.
The story started in 2016 when the museum’s Director Mary Godwin attended a unique theatre performance at Levant Mine in West Cornwall. Entitled The Trench, it was an immersive theatre performance in the landscape, with a ‘real’ Trench, that brought vividly to life local stories of World War 1. She was so inspired by the experience that she knew she wanted to create something similar for Bodmin to mark the century of World War 1 in 2018. She contacted Jason Squibb, The Trench’s Creative Director and so began two years of work for Jason and Mary, the museum team of staff and volunteers, and the many project partners that made it all possible.
Thanks to financial support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with additional support from Arts Council England and Feast, the project was able to become a truly ambitious adventure. The overall concept was to create an immersive theatre performance and exhibition to tell the stories of 80 local men who had served in World War 1, finding out as much about their lives as possible and connecting their stories to the museum’s collection wherever possible.
First of all we put together a team of around 40 volunteer researchers who set to work finding out about local soldiers and officers of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry (DCLI) who had fought in World War 1. Eighty of these became the subject of the Trench experience and exhibition.
You can find out about some of the soldiers that featured in The Trench by following the links below