Undertones of War exhibition at the Redoubt, Eastbourne
For many years the Redoubt has been the home of the Royal Sussex Regimental Collection and as such we often try to tell the stories of its' notable soldiers in our exhibitions.
With this year being the Centenary of the outbreak of World War 1, we decided to celebrate one of the most famous pieces of prose literature about the conflict, 'Undertones of War'. Edmund Blunden, its author, joined the Royal Sussex in 1915, and is one of the most celebrated sons' of the Regiment, although not the best known of that loose band of soldiers now known as War Poets. Our original intention was to tell our visitors about his work, and in particular his war prose and poetry, but this plan changed somewhat when our research revealed so much more.
I am no poetry scholar, being a humble archaeologist by trade, but myself and my colleague Katherine were so moved by his works and indeed his life's journey that we felt we wanted to try to tell more of it. We also felt strongly that the best people to tell this tale were Edmund Blunden himself and those who knew or had studied him in considerable depth. Therefore, the vast majority of the text used is not our interpretation or our explanations of his work, but where possible we have left the poets' work to speak for itself.
We also wanted to do more than have poems in frames on the walls, but had very limited access to objects actually related to Blunden (with thanks to Christ's Hospital School and West Sussex Records Office for the loan of the few objects we did secure). To make the exhibition more 'multi-dimensional' we opted to have recordings of some of the poems and also to use our own video pieces to emphasise key works or stages in his life.
Without revealing the finished product, we have ended up with an exhibition that has areas which conjure up quite different feelings, one dark, immersive and passive, another light, participatory and highly emotional and yet another interactive, inclusive but still with an edge of reflection. We have tried to convey a life's work in a relatively small space and for someone as prolific as Edmund Blunden this is no easy task. We had to make judgements about what to include and how to display it in order to make the works accessible, attractive and intriguing to our visitors. We hope we have succeeded in this at least to some level.
What we do promise is an introduction to the work, experiences and life of a very significant poet and writer and one that remains with the visitor long after they have left the Redoubt behind.
This exhibition is a journey that we truly hope will engage with people and one that will leave the visitor wanting to know more about the 'Harmless Young Shepherd in a Soldier's Coat', Edmund Blunden.
Jo Seaman, Heritage Officer at Eastbourne
To learn more about the exhibition access the link below or call 01323 410300.