19 OCTOBER 2013: Well yesterday was the project finale and what an event it was! Deep beneath the corridors of power in Churchill’s wartime nerve centre, the Cabinet War Rooms provided a suitably atmospheric setting for the premiere of the film and celebration event to mark the end of the project.
The 60 or so guests heard from evacuees including Silvia who said when she was evacuated from London at the age of 11, she’d never been on a train or seen a cow. Summing up the horror and wonder of the experience in one sentence she said: “It was lovely to go out in the countryside and run about, but….. I really hated it.”
Mayer Hillman, former evacuee and now Senior Fellow Emeritus at the Policy Studies Institute, University of Westminster told the audience that he had found the experience of evacuation “deeply disturbing.” However, he said that the freedom (or rather, neglect) that he had experienced in his billeted home – to roam, get up to mischief and mix with strangers had been hugely beneficial for his development.
The great news is that it is not really the end! We had a little bit of money left, and the project has been so popular with schools that the Heritage Lottery has agreed that we can extend the project until January next year. We will be running workshops in schools in the run up to Christmas, getting kids to make decorations and presents with the materials that would have been available during wartime. After Christmas we will be working with kids to create a drama performance.