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Dramatic finale to mark centenary of end of First World War

Over two thousand young people from England and Wales will take part in a national concert to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War.

First World War Centenary

Minister for Faith Lord Bourne confirmed the ‘Lest We Forget’ concert, backed by £90,000 government funding will take place in November 2018 as part of the government’s centenary programme of ceremonial events, cultural activity and education.

Hosted at Birmingham’s NEC, the concert comes at the end of a 4-year programme to honour and remember those who lived, fought and died in the First World War.

Minister for Faith and Integration Lord Bourne said:

It is vitally important that each new generation is encouraged to remember the enormous sacrifices made in defending the liberties we take for granted today. The stories of individual bravery and the terrible losses experienced by countless families must never be forgotten.

This special concert will enable thousands of young people to play an active dramatic part in the commemorations and hear of the experiences of those only a little older than themselves.

When a campaign for volunteers was launched in August 1914, thousands answered the call to fight. Among them were 250,000 boys and young men under the age of 19. The concert will remember their stories and they will be given a voice by those just a year or two younger.

After being inundated with applications from those wanting to take part some 2,000 young singers and musicians under 18 years of age are now being selected through their schools and regional music education hubs across England and Wales to play.

Music and songs to be featured will include: ‘Nimrod’ from Elgar’s Enigma Variations, which is played at the Cenotaph in London each Remembrance Sunday, ‘Silent Night’, the Christmas carol said to have been sung by British and German soldiers during the December truce and songs popular among soldiers such as ‘Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag’ and ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’. Readings from diaries and letters written at that time will also be given and archive film footage from the trenches will be shown.

The concert was conceived by celebrated children’s author and retired education expert Dr Ron Dawson, who also composed the song ‘Lest we forget’.

Dr Ron Dawson said:

I am delighted that the Department for Communities and Local Government is making this concert possible. If the spirit and duty of Remembrance is to endure, it must be passed on from generation to generation. The ambition of this Children’s Centenary Concert is to renew that remembrance, educate and show our eternal gratitude to those who lived, fought and died in that terrible war a century ago.

The First World War was not just fought on the battlefields of Northern Europe and the concert will also commemorate the vital contributions made by soldiers, sailors and airmen drawn from all four corners of the globe. It will also tell the story of the role of women played on the home front.

Further information

The Lest We Forget Children’s Concert will take place at the Gentings arena, NEC Birmingham on the evening of Saturday 3 November 2018.

Tickets are expected to go on sale in January 2018.

The concert is part of the government’s 4-year programme to ensure that the sacrifices of our armed forces in the First World War are not forgotten. For more information see First World War centenary.

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Published 11 August 2017