How one pandemic interrupted a research project on another

HLF funded project “Spanish Flu in the aftermath of World War One, in Brighton and East Sussex” and Covid 19.

The Centre for Memory, Narrative and History (CMNH) has been working with local community arts organisation Inroads Productions on a project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which explored the relatively untold history of the Spanish Flu in the Brighton and Hove area in the wake of World War One.

The project was designed with two main stages of development. In Stage 1, Autumn 2019, working also in partnership with Brighton General Hospital and the AHRC funded Public Engagement Centre Gateways to the First World War, Inroads Productions delivered research workshops using creative learning (drama, writing, dance) with young people in schools and colleges and community groups including Windmill Youth Theatre and Hillcrest Art Start and assembled a range of oral history interviews from the descendants of families affected in Brighton and materials ready for an exhibition.

Stage 2 was due to take place in Spring 2020 and involved working with a group of people drawn from the original groups to devise a performance informed by their learning about the Flu, including some interpretation of the collected oral histories. The two final events were to be open to the general public, with performances at Brighton General Hospital (where Spanish Flu patients had been treated) and the University of Brighton, along with an exhibition of materials, including photos and recordings; and host talks by academic experts about Spanish Flu and World War One.

“There was always a silence.  I remember in my nan’s parlour … she had an old penny with peoples name on. They did lose people. They didn’t talk about it they didn’t want to go back to the heart ache”

Oral history volunteer about the end of the War as well as the Flu

The performance and exhibition were to be called Breaking the Silence, as the participants discovered that the pandemic was permeated by silence – it was downplayed by the government, and deaths were often covered up by families ashamed that their family member had died of influenza rather than heroically in the War. Indeed the end of World War One itself was shrouded in silence as traumatised returning soldiers did not want to talk about it and the social protocol of the time was to keep silent about painful experiences. This sense of loss and trauma has reverberated through generations ever since, and carries other emotions of guilt, shame, anger and fear, that are embodied as ‘trace memories’ in family stories.

Covid 19 and changes to the project.

In the light of the coronavirus pandemic, and in discussion with the funders, there was no option other than to cancel the planned exhibition and performances. As it became clear that the virus was going to cause disruption to live events for the foreseeable future, project partners agreed to transfer all of the material on to a newly created website, incorporating oral history clips, academic talks, creative writing and visual art, and information about the Spanish Flu in Brighton, as well as sections on local impact, hidden histories and daily life in the town. The overall theme is still about Silence, how people kept stories within families. The website should be live by August 2020.

CMNH are continuing to work with Inroads Productions and investigating the correlations around Silence during the pandemics for 1918 and 2020. 100 years ago the public experience of the Spanish Flu was often hidden and contained, and wartime propaganda meant that the levels of infection were played down, and of course there was no hope of a vaccine.

In 2020, the public arena is the opposite of silence: the competing voices of the media, politicians, scientists and pundits, mean there is a level of noise and conflicting information that makes it difficult for people to really understand what is going on – whilst simultaneously, being forced to stay silent in isolation at home for example or grieve silently for lost loved ones or to stay silent with different opinions in the face of the approved narrative. This is a very public crisis whilst simultaneously being very private.

Notions of silence around care, death, grieving and mourning, both in 1918 and now, are of particular interest and especially the ‘everydayness’ of this. How it is all impacting on local people in reality? Sara Clifford, Director of Inroads Productions says that she is looking forward to pursuing an “in depth exploration of current approaches to these themes and how they link to silence. Who is allowed to say what and where and when? How will people remember this period in history?  Are those feelings of guilt, shame, blame, anger and fear resonating again in the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the War? How will these stories be told and who will hear them in the future.” CMNH will be working with Inroads Productions, taking this important work forward in the form of further collaborative projects and grants. In the mean time Inroads Productions and their project team are working hard to create the website, which will eventually be up live at

Dr Sam Carroll, Sara Clifford, Pat Drake, Lucy Newby, and Dr Deborah Madden.

Centre for Memory, Narrative and Histories at the University of Brighton and Inroads Productions

In recognition of this important work the team are delighted to report they have just been supported to take the work forward via the University of Brighton Covid-19 Research Urgency Fund.


Gavin Ambrose – Unseen Sketchbooks

Established by myself and fellow University of Brighton Graphic Design BA staff Beth Salter and Chris Bigg, and supported by Creative Futures, Unseen Sketchbooks is a UK based bespoke publishing house producing limited edition books with designers, illustrators and artists. Each limited edition publication focuses on the work of a designer, artist or musician and looks at creating new and unseen work from their archives. The editions are all short print runs and often involve special print techniques and covers.

Edition one: Chris Bigg – Analogue Process

Part of the rationale for establishing a new model of publishing is something I had been contemplating for a long time. As a published author, I wanted to return to a less restricted way of publishing with a greater degree of freedom compared to traditional models. I consider myself an originator of projects in this context as opposed to a traditional editor or publisher. I intentionally seek to establish some rough frameworks or starting points for projects, but then try to let the creatives involved have as much freedom as is possible. An example of this would be the book we are just printing with Dutch designer Erik Kessels designed by Chris Bigg. The framework for this was to allow as much freedom for Erik in collecting images, and likewise to Chris in interpreting these into a visual narrative. The book, made during the lockdown is in part a response to the times we are in and the struggles people will be facing.

Edition two: Jim Stoten – strike sheets from the printing of the book cover

Since the outbreak of Covid-19 I have also become increasingly interested in the therapeutic role of the sketchbook and its possible use as a tool for healing. I have begun a series of interviews with creatives to begin to explore this.

Edition three: Erik Kessels – Let’s get shitfaced, it’s free.

Unseen Sketchbooks printed to date:

Edition three is Let’s get shitfaced, it’s free. by dutch designer and artist Erik Kessels. Kessels collated a series of images as a form of digital sketchbook which have been interpreted into a new book by designer and unseen sketchbooks collaborator Chris Bigg.

Edition two was Skotchbook by Illustrator and University of Brighton Lecturer Jim Stoten, a selection of pages from his personal sketchbooks, which he keeps in his coat pocket at all times and has done for the last 10-15 years. Jim draws in it every day. Within the pages are comic strips that attempt to make sense of his own thoughts, feelings and reactions to the World as well as poems, hand drawn type, song lyrics, memorable quotes from films, TV, debate forums on all topics and chat show interviews from the 1970s and ’80s. There are also observational drawings from train journeys, exhibitions and visits to the pub, as well random drawings of imaginary people, architectural forms, modes of transportation and animals.

Edition one was Analogue Process and focused on the Designer Chris Bigg who is known for his work for Record Label 4AD including recently working on The Breeders artwork and videos. Our first edition was printed 2 colour, black and metallic orange on G. F Smith’s Munken paper and came in standard magazine format or with a special one-off cover as an edition. The Deluxe Edition has a poster-wrap silk screened cover, screen printed outer delivery box and a one off screen print and ink signed print.

Gavin Ambrose is Academic Programme Leader for Visual Communication in the School of Art at the University of Brighton.

Pandemic Encounters ::: being[together] in the deep third space – May 23, 2020

Creative Futures recently featured University of Brighton Professor of Visual Communication Paul Sermon in relation to his work around videoconferencing in arts practice.

We are delighted to announce Paul is doing a networked performance installation from his living room at home on May 23, 2020, 5:00–6:30 p.m (UK). Organised by Randall Packer and Third Space Network, in collaboration with Leonardo LASER Hosts.

For more information and to register to please visit here

Photo Credit © Paul Sermon

Pandemic Encounters is a networked performance installation inhabited by the live chroma-figure of Paul. Participants are invited to enter into the deep third space to engage & perform a ritual action as a reflection on the Covid-19 state of being[together] remotely. Each action has its own form: an artistic expression, a scientific analysis, a poetic rendering, a political manifesto, a social critique, a dystopic cry of distress, a subtle movement, a moment of catharsis, or a call in the night from some distant corner of the world. Pandemic Encounters is a collective/creative response to a global pandemic that has triggered an unfolding metamorphosis of the human condition.

World Times and Date:

San Francisco: May 23, 2020, 9:00–10:30 a.m.

New York: May 23, 2020, 12:00–1:30 p.m.

London: May 23, 2020, 5:00–6:30 p.m.

Sao Paulo: May 23, 2020, 1:00–2:30 p.m.

Hong Kong: May 24, 2020, 12:00–1:30 a.m.

War & Peace – 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe

University of Brighton’s Dr Frank Gray and the team at Screen Archive South East (SASE) have prepared ‘War & Peace’ – a free to stream 7 minute film to both commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe and provide an introduction to the many films it has collected over the last twenty-five years on the experience of living in the South East during this epochal period of 1939-45. ‘War & Peace’ is designed as a chronological montage in black & white and colour of home front life as captured by film-makers from the region. It culminates with all the exhilaration and exuberance of the celebrations that took place that May in 1945 both on after VE Day on 8 May 1945. It features the building of Anderson shelters, air raid drills in a Hove school, a fire-engine off to an ‘incident’ in Surrey, Spitfires at Tangmere, Land Girls along with their pet dogs on the family farm in Surrey all posing in respirators, the ‘real’ Dad’s Army armed with broomsticks in West Clandon and the terrible and tragic aftermath of Brighton’s Blitz. It concludes with the end of war celebrations in London and the South East: parades, street parties, jitter-bugging and doing the hokey-cokey. ‘War & Peace’ is accompanied by a specially commissioned score from the award-winning screen composer Nina Humphreys.

‘War and Peace’ and all the films below (and many more) are free to stream online at

Watch: ‘War & Peace’:

Many of the films used in ‘War & Peace’ have never been seen before in public. SASE has been preparing for this anniversary by researching, digitising and cataloguing films from WW2. We now have, as a result, over one hundred and fifty Home Front films available to view on our website:

Six SASE films used within ‘War & Peace’ provide a valuable introduction to our Home Front collection and its representation of war years:

‘Brighton Civic Week, Civil Defence Services & Land Girls’ is one of a number of films by Winston Robinson, who during the war served as Brighton’s official cinematographer. This colour film features a visit by Home Secretary Herbert Morrison, who inspects the town’s defences, a parade in Brighton’s Preston Park saluting the twenty-six allied nations and women of the Land Army ploughing, harvesting and driving their tractors.

Watch: ‘Brighton Civic Week, Civil Defence Services & Land Girls’:

‘A.R.P’ a film by architect John Clague, who made a unique record of the Home Front in Herne Bay featuring evacuees arriving at the station, firemen dealing with incendiary bombs and men and women volunteers training to deal with casualties, first aid and gas attacks. He also filmed a visit to the deep tunnel shelters hewn into the cliffs of Ramsgate.

Watch: ‘A.R.P’:

A very recent discovery is the Bell collection’s ‘Childhood Wartime Scenes’ – which shows squadrons of Flying Fortresses flying overhead on a bombing raid and an attack by a V1 Doodlebug and the horrific devastation it brought to suburban Cheam.

Watch: ‘Childhood Wartime Scenes’:

‘Victory in Europe’ made by Angelo Razzo captures scenes on that amazing day in London with GI’s, leading the jitter-bugging and waltzing throughout London’s streets. This film continues to be a mystery as we haven’t yet been able to uncover any biographical information on Angelo Razzo and how he came to be on the streets of London with his camera on this day.

Watch: ‘Victory in Europe’:

‘Victory in Europe 1945’ – another film from Winston Robinson which starts with the Mayor proclaiming the formal declaration of peace to delighted crowds outside the Town Hall before showing the citizens of Brighton & Hove enjoying street parties all across the town with eating, dancing, funfairs and sing-a-longs all celebrating that momentous day.

Watch: ‘Victory in Europe 1945’:

Norman Edwards’ highly atmospheric ‘Royal Thanksgiving’ captures the crowds, street sellers and men and women of the services assembling in Whitehall and along the Mall waiting to see the Royal Family joined by Winston Churchill on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. Then moving to Trafalgar Square we see Victory bonfires, dancing and lines of dancers doing the hokey-cokey.

Watch: ‘Royal Thanksgiving’:

These films also relate to two of the themes found on the SASE website:

Home Front

Wartime & Military

Screen Archive Staff:

Director: Dr Frank Gray

Moving Image Archivist: Ine van Dooren

Business & Partnerships Manager: Jane King

Administrator: Louise Conway

Preservation & Production Manager: Nick Clark

Technical Assistant: Stasia Botwright

Collection Manager: Michael Matwiejczyk






Screen Archive South East is a publicly-funded regional film archive serving this region of England. Established in 1992 by the British Film Institute, the University of Brighton and a consortium of local authorities, SASE is dedicated to collecting, preserving, digitising, cataloguing and providing public and commercial access to its screen collection of films, videotapes, lantern slides and digital files. SASE is committed to ‘inclusive heritage’ and nurturing and sharing a vision for screen heritage that combines research, stewardship, curation, exhibition and education with audience & visitor development. It is dedicated to skill-sharing, knowledge-sharing (archival & curatorial) and working in partnership with colleagues both regionally and nationally.

Part of the University of Brighton, it serves the South East of England and its six local authorities: Brighton & Hove, East Sussex, Kent, Medway, Surrey and West Sussex. Its collection of over 25,000 lantern slides and moving images document the rise of screen culture in the region and the nation and represent primarily the changing nature of life in the South East from the late 19th century to the present day. SASE’s Conservation Centre is found within the West Sussex Record Office at Chichester (which includes work space and a climate-controlled media vault). This record office is SASE’s primary partner.

In 2009 SASE was recognised by the BFI as a significant UK film collection and it features on the AHRC website as one of their case studies:

General enquiries should be made to:

Screen Archive South East

University of Brighton

Room G02C

154-155 Edward Street

Brighton, BN2 0JG


Tel: +44 (0)1273 643213