Never Such Innocence, a national charity aimed at engaging children aged between 9-16 years old in the First World War centenary commemorations, will today be hosted by Sunderland Minster in partnership with the Churches’ Conservation Trust, the Empire Theatre, and Sunderland Music Hub.  The children will be welcomed by Revd Andrew Dowsett, and addressed by the Lord Lieutenant Mrs Susan Winfield OBE.  The Mayor Cllr Doris McKnight will also be in attendance.

The 2017/18 Never Such Innocence competition, supported by The Royal British Legion, the National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund, and RAF100, invites children and young people to submit poetry, art and songs inspired by the events of the Great War. On their journey to 2018, Never Such Innocence and RAF100 are encouraging children to consider the war in the skies as part of their contribution to the competition to mark 100 years since the formation of the world’s first independent air force. And in partnership with The Royal British Legion, Never Such Innocence is encouraging young people to pay tribute to the generation of the First World War, a creative expression of appreciation and gratitude.

The event will be attended by children from Hasting Hill Academy, Grangetown Primary School, Hudson Road Primary School, Bamburgh School, and Albany Village Primary.  Four of the schools will participate in a Songs of the Centenary (SOTC) workshop ahead of the roadshow, where they will work with Never Such Innocence’s Artist in Residence Marty Longstaff of The Lake Poets to write songs inspired by the First World War, which will be performed at the event. SOTC is partnered with Dave Stewart Entertainment and supported by IVE, through its Arts Council ‘bridge’ role, to engage children with the centenary commemorations through song. An online platform, powered by the app Trackd, provides a secure environment for young people to create music and collaborate with others across the British Isles, and the world.

Key speakers include Lord-Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear Mrs Susan Winfield, Revd Andrew Dowsett, acting Canon Provost at the Minster, Lady Lucy French, Founder and Chief Executive of Never Such Innocence, Rebecca Pedlow of the Sunderland Music Hub, Hollie Coxon of the Empire Theatre (who will be speaking about the exciting new War Horse project!) and Trish Keppie, Regional Co-ordinator for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Lady Lucy French, Great-Granddaughter of Field Marshal Sir John French and Founder of Never Such Innocence said, “We are very excited to host our roadshow at the Sunderland Minster which is a beautiful and significant venue to inspire commemorative arts on the First Wold War. We have been overwhelmed with the emotional intelligence of the Never Such Innocence Children throughout the last few years and cannot wait to see this year’s entries.”

Gary Ryan, Director of Remembrance and Marketing for The Royal British Legion said: “We are pleased to be in partnership with Never Such Innocence to encourage young people from across the UK to mark the final year of the First World War Centenary in 2018.  We are calling on a new generation to remember, to reflect, and to join in our campaign to say, ‘Thank You’ to the First World War generation for their experience and example which inspires us still. We’ll be working with Never Such Innocence to bring the best of these ‘Thank You’ messages in poetry, music, and art to the widest possible UK audience.”

Revd Dr Andrew C Dowsett, Minster Priest, Sunderland Minster said: “We have hosted several events commemorating the centenary of the First World War, and several artistic and musical events involving children. I am delighted to bring these two threads together as we welcome ‘those long uneven lines’ of children from schools across the region to take part in Never Such Innocence.”

For more details please visit the Never Such Innocence website here.