Hundreds watch shows and displays at World War Open Day in Northampton

Nearly 300 people visited Northampton’s cultural quarter to take part in a wide range of activities and display to commemorate the cenenary of the First World War.

The special event was organised by Northampton Borough Council and Royal & Derngate and entertained visitors of all ages with music and dance shows, all with a pre-war theme, as well as variety of stalls and activities to get involved in.

Kay Rouse's wartime toys and games

Kay Rouse's wartime toys and games

And the day, which took place on Saturday from 11am-4pm, held even more surprises for some. Brother and sister, Jenny and John Rowlands, aged 64 and 63, were helped by the Western Front Association’s stall at Royal & Derngate Derngate, to discover the name and job of their grandfather who was killed in 1916 during the Battle of the Somme.

Jenny said: “They worked out from an old photgraph that we brought that our granddad, who grew up in Semilong Road, was Private 7108 Harry H. Rolfe and he was a horse driver in the Royal Scots Regiment. He was probably killed whilst bringing supplies to the front.

“The whole day has been very enjoyable and it has been lovely going to all the different things that have been put on.”

As well as the Western Front, the Derngate hosted many other community group stalls, as well as art activities for children, a fashion boutique giving vintage hairstyles and an Edwardian tea party in the Wicked Way Cafe.

Girls with vintage hairstyles at Royal & Derngate

Girls with vintage hairstyles at Royal & Derngate

Across the road, Northampton Museum and Art Gallery opened a special ‘A Shoemaker Goes to War’ exhibition, while the Guildhall Courtyard filled with audience watching music from the Liberty Corps Youth Band, jive dancing from Black Swan Dance School, a physical theatre flashmob from the Royal & Derngate youth theatre, and war songs in period costume from Royal & Derngate Community Choir.

Other visitors also joined in the fancy dress fun, including Vicky Kelly, who wore the badges and pinafore of her great aunt, Dorothy Stone, who was an ambulance driver for the Red Cross Somerset division.

She said: “It feels really special to be able to wear my ancestor’s uniform. I didn’t even know we had it until my dad mentioned the other day that she served in the war and then we found the uniform in the loft.”

Creative project manager at the Derngate, Georgia Munion, said: “It has been fantastic to see everyone from the local community taking part in this together, and there has been a steady flow of visitors all day.

“It has also helped to kick-start our new project ‘Conflicts and Community’ which will feature all sorts of performances and events based on the wartime stories of local people over the next 18 months.”