Meridian Society gains support of National Lottery to commemorate the Chinese Labour Corps

Our congratulations to the Meridian Society on securing funding for a Chinese Labour Corps commemoration project. Their press release is given below.

The Meridian Society has been awarded a grant of £99,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) towards a commemoration project of the contribution made to WW1 by the Chinese Labour Corps (CLC).

Chinese labourers arriving in Boulogne
Volunteers will be recruited to help in various elements of the project and will be given training beforehand by experts in the field.

The project will consist of a documentary film in English with Chinese subtitles, to be screened at BFI Southbank, its sister cinemas and universities offering Chinese degree courses nationwide. The film will include oral histories from descendants both of the CLC in a and of their British commanding officers in the UK, archive material, filmed footage of existing sites, e.g. vestiges of training camps in China, trenches of the Somme and CLC burial sites in England and Europe.

DVD copies with accompanying booklet will be distributed to museums, libraries, archives, schools and Chinese community centres as a teaching/reference aid during and beyond our project. The booklet will contain supplementary documents and images, a bibliography of publications on the CLC for further reading and details of related websites. It will be bi-lingual to aid members of the Chinese community unfamiliar with English and to help learners of Chinese at workshops. Volunteers will assist in all stages of production, including research, filming, editing, and packaging and distribution of DVDs.

Educational workshops aimed at young people from 6-18 years of age will enable audiences to handle memorabilia, letters and documents for interpretation and to stimulate them to think about their deeper significance. Interactive drama performances will be given on such topics as poverty, departure, acclimatisation, alienation, homesickness, war, fear, death and sacrifice. Participants will be invited to write pieces or create artwork representing the emotions and experiences of the CLC or expressing their own thoughts and impressions of the CLC story.

Stuart Hobley, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund London, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, The Meridian Society will work with members of the public to explore the contribution of the Chinese Labour Corps to British efforts in the First World War. HLF is pleased to support this commemoration project which hosts an exciting programme of events, talks and creative activities.”

Peng Wenlan, Project Director for The Meridian Society, added: “The story of the Chinese Labour Corps and their contribution to the Allied effort during the Great War have remained forgotten for too long. This grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund will enable us to reveal it to the British public in a creative and accessible way. Our project website, featuring all the activities and outcomes of the next two years, will act as a virtual memorial to the CLC and will hopefully bring together descendants of Chinese labourers and their British commanding officers, so that new friendships can be forged and the legacy of their ancestors’ close collaboration can be continued.”

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