Through most of 2015 I was listening to an enormously long audio documentary series about World War 1. It’s called Blueprint For Armageddon and is part of the Hardcore History show hosted by Dan Carlin. It has a very rambunctious intro, which might make you think that it’s going to be frilly and overblown. Don’t be put off – the show itself is nothing like its intro.
What you get is a six episode series, with each episode being about four hours long, in the form of a free podcast.
I’ll just let that sink in for a moment. We’re talking 24 hours of audio documentary. That doesn’t come around often.
It is, in fact, entirely without frills. Each of those 24 hours is simply Carlin talking. Passionately, but with a desire to get to the truth of the events – examining how the human truth intersects with the political madness of the conflict. I hadn’t actively studied World War 1 since I was at school. Needless to say, I was entirely unprepared for Carlin’s no-holds-barred approach, not to mention the level of detail.
Even if you’re not a history buff, give it a listen, because it makes WW1 accessible and relatable, putting it firmly in its 21st century context. As a kid, both world wars seemed like distant stories that happened to other people. Carlin’s made it abundantly clear to me that the ramifications of the war are still affecting every corner of the world.
Which brings me to Fierce Light, an exhibition currently running at the East Gallery in Norwich. I was fortunate enough to attend a private view last Friday. It’s a mixture of photography, poetry and film, exploring trench warfare by combining archive visuals with modern words. You can find out about it here.
The most striking aspect of the exhibition for me – possibly due to my ignorance of photographic history – is an enormous super-wide panoramic photograph of a battlefield, with period annotations. It runs along the top of its display case for about 4-5 metres and is perfectly stitched together. Quite how it was achieved manually, without any digital preview, in the middle of a horrendous warzone, I have no idea. Overlaid onto the photograph is a long, single line of poetry, stretching along its entire span. It’s brilliantly evocative.
It’s a fairly small exhibition and is entirely free, so do pop in if you happen to be in Norwich – you can walk to the East Gallery from the town centre in about two minutes.