VisitEngland highlights key events across England for the First World War centenary in 2014

London, UK, 2013-11-4 — / — 2014 marks the centenary of the start of the First World War, a landmark anniversary for England and the world. The First World War Centenary Partnership, led by Imperial War Museums (IWM), will mark the centenary by leading a vibrant, four-year cultural programme that includes over 500 new exhibitions and 1,500 events.

James Berresford, VisitEngland’s Chief Executive said:

“A time for reflection and commemoration, the anniversary of the First World War is something that will resonate across the country in 2014, shown by the outstanding level of activity across England. These experiences, from new exhibitions in our leading museums and galleries to specially commissioned pieces of theatre and performance, will allow visitors and communities to mark the centenary in a way that is meaningful to them. The programme being put together by Imperial War Museums and the First World War Centenary Partnership is a fitting tribute to such an important moment in history.”

Here, VisitEngland highlights a few key events taking place across the country.

A Day of Remembrance 
4 August 2014, the day we entered the war, will be marked with a candle-lit vigil of prayer at Westminster Abbey( The service is one of a number of events being announced by the Government to mark the centenary of the start of the Great War. During the evening of silence, prayers, readings and music, the congregation will see the light of candles disappear one by one until a final remaining candle is extinguished at 11pm. Other remembrance events will be held around the country. For more information, visit

Imperial War Museums
In July 2014, IWM London ( will open ground-breaking new First World War Galleries to mark the centenary of the First World War. The new galleries will draw on IWM’s First World War collections, which are the richest and most comprehensive in the world and the museum will unveil a newly configured atrium showcasing the collections’ larger objects. Weapons and uniforms, diaries, letters and souvenirs, will sit alongside photographs, art and film – many of which have never been seen before. The museum will also present Truth and Memory, the largest and first major retrospective of British First World War art for almost 100 years. This major exhibition, featuring over 110 paintings, sculptures and drawings from IWM’s collections, will assess the immediate impact and enduring legacy of Britain’s First World War art.

In Manchester, FromStreet to Trench: A War That Shaped a Region (5 April 2014 – 2015), will be the largest exhibition to explore the North West of England during the First World War, at IWM North ( The exhibition illustrates how a region was shaped by the conflict and how the people of that region played a significant role in global events.

Over at IWM Duxford ( in Cambridgeshire, the focus will be on the hangars and buildings on display that date back to the latter stages of the First World War. Visitors will be able to discover aspects of land warfare and mechanisation in the museum’s Land Warfare exhibition as well as First World War aircraft in its AirSpace exhibition.

Exhibitions & Events 
Later this month, Stanley Spencer’s poignant memories of war are leaving their permanent home at the National Trust’s Sandham Memorial Chapel to be exhibited at Somerset House ( Painting scenes of his own wartime experiences, Stanley Spencer: Heaven in a Hell of War (7 November 2013 – 26 January 2014) will focus on domestic everyday experiences – washing lockers, inspecting kit, sorting laundry, scrubbing floors and taking tea – in which he found spiritual resonance and sustenance. Elsewhere in the capital, the National Portrait Gallery ( is to commemorate the centenary with The Great War in Portraits, an exhibition running between 27 February – 15 June 2014 that will form the start of a four-year commemorative programme. Tate Modern ( will present 100 Years Later: Conflict, Time, Photography (from 19 November 2014, working title), where the relationship between photography and different sites of conflict is explored over time.

The first series of TV’s most lavish period drama, Downton Abbey, was set against the outbreak of the First World War. Next year, Highclere Castle (, the setting for the series, will mark the First World War Centenary by hosting ‘Heroes at Highclere’ on 3 August.  During the First World War, the castle was transformed into a hospital, just as it was in its fictional role as Downton Abbey, as patients began to arrive from Flanders in 1914. The event will feature The Kings Troop Royal Artillery, Physical Training Corps, The White Helmets and more. In the air, there will be Spitfires, B17s, and other exciting aerial acrobatics from the Great War Display. Fill up on corn beef hash from vintage catering units, drink traditional WW1 ales, and shop at the vintage fair.

Another English stately home, Castle Howard ( will display Duty Calls: Castle Howard in Time of War throughout 2014, an exhibition looking at the impact of conflict on the castle and its community. Showcasing images and artefacts from the Howard family archive, the collection will include many photographic and documentary discoveries from the First World War. Similar exhibitions have been taking place at other stately homes across Yorkshire throughout 2013, including Duty Calls at Kiplin Hall & Gardens ( in Richmond, which continues into 2014.

The gun which fired the first shot at sea in the First World War is set to take centre stage at the new remembrance gallery at the National Museum of the Royal Navy ( next year. The gun will be craned into place as part of the new HMS – Hear My Story exhibition at the museum in Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard. Opening in spring 2014, the exhibition will give voice to the stories of the men, women and ships that have made the Navy’s history over the last 100 years and impacted on all of our lives. HMS will bring visitors closer than ever before to the real Royal Navy as their heritage is brought together for the first time.

Stage Productions 
The National Theatre’s award-winning production of War Horse ( will continue to tour England until July 2014. The play tells the powerful story of a young boy called Albert and his beloved horse, Joey, who has been requisitioned to fight for the English in the First World War. This remarkable tale of courage, loyalty and friendship will visit the Theatre Royal, Plymouth; Birmingham Hippodrome; The Lowry in Salford Quays; The Mayflower Theatre, Southampton; Sunderland’s Empire, and the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford. Performances have also been extended to February 2014 at the New London Theatre on Drury Lane.

Award-winning British choreographers Akram Khan, Russell Maliphant and Liam Scarlett are creating new works for English National Ballet’s Lest We Forget (, a programme of British dance inspired by the centenary of the First World War to be performed at the Barbican in April 2014.

Comedian Caroline Quentin is set to star in a new production of Oh, What A Lovely War! at Theatre Royal Stratford East ( The performance contrasts the harsh reality of the First World War with popular songs from the period to deliver a powerful anti-war message. Runs 1 February – 15 March 2014.

Finally, Birdsong (, the critically-acclaimed stage show based on the world famous novel by Sebastian Faulks, will tour England again in 2014. Set in pre-war France against the Battle of the Somme, the show is a mesmerising story of love and courage.

See the full programme of events at or go to


For further press information please contact: 
Mark Anthony McCulloch / Laura Dewar / Rebecca Holloway
VisitEngland Press Office
Tel: 020 7578 1446 / 020 7578 1437 / 020 7578 1429
Email: / /

Notes to Editors: 

About VisitEngland 
• VisitEngland is the country’s national tourist board. We work in partnership with the industry to develop the visitor experience across England, plan national tourism strategy, grow the value of tourism in England and provide advocacy for the industry and our visitors.

About England 
• Historic yet contemporary, traditional yet cutting-edge, metropolitan yet wild: England is truly a unique destination and a real powerhouse in global tourism.
• With ancient Hadrian’s Wall straddling the wild north and the world’s biggest indoor tropical rainforest nestled in the far south, England really is the ultimate mix of old and new as well as being home to some of the most iconic sites in the world, including Stonehenge, the honey-hued Georgian terraces of Bath and the towering peaks and glistening meres of the Lake District.
• Did you know that in 2010 there were 96.4 million domestic overnight trips in England, 25.5 million inbound visits and 872 million tourism day trips?

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