December 10, 2014, by Guest blog
The New Wipers Times
The Wipers Times was a renowned trench magazine, published by Nottingham’s Sherwood Foresters whilst fighting on the frontlines during the Great War, 1914-1918. Working with army families, the New Wipers Times is a ‘graphic anthology’ that gives a glimpse of army life today.
In early 1916 the 12th Battalion of the Shwerwood Foresters came across an abandoned printing press and began a publication that consisted of poems, reflections, wry in-jokes and lampoons of the military situation (‘Wipers’ was itself a pun on ‘Ypres’, the Flemish town at the centre of the 1914-1918 battlefields of the ‘Ypres Salient’, which was razed to the ground during four years of fighting).
The New Wipers Times is a key element of the ambitious Trent to Trenches exhibition at Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery, commemorating the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War. It has been developed as a graphic anthology with today’s army families based at Chetwynd Barracks in Chilwell, Nottingham – the site of the massive No. 6 National Shell Filling Factory during the Great War.
Thanks to funding from Arts Council England (Grants for the Arts) and the support of Project Co-ordinator Katy Culbard, the project enabled army families to work with artist Carol Adlam and writer Helen Cross to add their own creative voices to the exhibition. This has given the exhibition a contemporary perspective, with work by artists today, and created an art piece that reflects on the experiences of army families: the reality of army life one hundred years on. The inspiration to look at how families might express their stories and their ideas for making a new graphic novel came from the Wipers Times, the original copies of which are included in the Trent to Trenches exhibition.
Something of the spirit of the Wipers Times, which found irony and humour in the most harrowing of situations, can be found in contemporary graphic novels – a format allowing artists to explore current social and political issues through an irreverent, off-beat and sometimes challenging approach to the creation of illustrated stories. With this in mind, we recruited an artist and a writer who would have the skills and imagination to tap in to these ideas and inspire other people.
This graphic anthology includes a selection of factual and fictional stories created by adults and children who took part in this project, along with a selection of spoof adverts inspired by the original Wipers Times. We achieved what we set out to do, having created a truly contemporary imaginative take on modern day service family life. So thank you to everyone who took part for your ideas, openness, energy and commitment.