Since the Sharp Street book was released, Rob Bell has developed more material on the First World War and beyond. This led to the launch of The History Troupe – a group of writers, performers and musicians exploring hidden histories across a number of local communities.
This November, Rob Bell and The History Troupe are performing talks, performance combining spoken word with music and, workshops in a number of places. Much of this material either uses or builds from Sharp Street. Come along if you can:
- 11th November. Lunchtime. TALK. Ferens Art Gallery – A reading of Sharp Street and other poems based on the war by Rob Bell. This is part of the Humber Mouth Literary Festival. FREE.
- 11th November. Evening. PERFORMANCE. Statues Cradling Toys. Toll Gavel, Beverley. The story of Beverley & the East Riding in the First World War. The History Troupe; The Hillbilly Troupe and Lyn Acton will sing songs of the era. £5.
- 15th November. Evening. Truths. The Endsleigh Centre, Beverley Road, Hull. A set of readings and songs from the First World War – across the world. With poems from India and Kurdistan, this performance widens the agenda. £5.
- 19th November. Lunchtime. Oppy Wood, the play. Kardomah94, Alfred Gelder Street, Hull. FREE.
- 19th November. Evening. Oppy Wood followed by Readings from the First World War. £5.
For more details – consult The History Troupe Web Page
Sharp Street, the book
Sharp Street tells the story of 140 men who served in World War I – all from the same area of Hull. These days, the area is a vibrant and diverse place close to the University. Back in 1914, it was typical of streets all over the industrial north – all paving flags and street, no grass.Until recently, the men were commemorated on a wooden memorial attached to a building that has been taken down for redevelopment. These men grew up together, worked together, supported local sports teams, raced pigeons… Then, there were the kids playing in the street and the Mothers going about the business of making lives and families work. Many families have photos somewhere that feature these scenes; some of the faces are known but most are strangers now.
The Sharp Street poems offer a narrative of the War from the opening salvos through to the Armistice and beyond. Then, they take us to more recent conflicts and how all war makes an impact beyond the battle field. In 1914-18 over 16 million were killed and 22 million were wounded but these stark statistics do not begin to explore the home front tragedies triggered by the conflict. By the end of WW1 192,000 wives had lost their husbands; 400,000 children their fathers. One in eight wives died within one year of receiving the telegram confirming their husbands death.
The poems move beyond the statistics and explore snapshots of experience on both the front line and back home. The innocence and excitement of the first few months shift into the harder realities of long hard winters, mounting casualties and loneliness of the long years ahead for those left behind.
The poems are rooted in the First World War but move the reader back to the present day with reference to conflicts happening now. They say you die twice. Once when you cease to breathe and then, when people stop talking about you. These poems keep the talk going.
IMAGE: The book cover and www homepage are taken from a work by Hull based artist Martin Waters