About

Imagine beginning to widen your horizons at the moment the world falls apart …

The Workers Educational Association (WEA) was launched in the North East in 1910 at a time when education was mostly accessible to the wealthy.  And, 4 years after these opportunities opened up to ordinary people, the world was at war.

Some men enlisted and carried on what study they could in the trenches. Others with strong pacifist or political views took the route of conscientious objection.  Women took on new and adventurous roles in the nascent educational movement and in wider society.

The WEA in WW1 in the NE is a First World War commemorative project by Workers’ Educational Association North East Region (WEA) which has received £60,300 towards delivery costs from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The project will focus on raising awareness, understanding and appreciation of the devastating impact of war and the WEA’s involvement and contribution.

It will stretch across Durham, Newcastle, Sunderland, and South Shields. Volunteers, students and WEA members will be given the tools to explore this educational movement during the war. There’ll be training in research skills and a range of creative activities, and the opportunity to contribute to a range of local and regional research groups.

At the time the First World War began, the WEA’s Northern region was barely 4 years old, so it is clear that the war must have had a huge impact on the organisation and its members.

Themes will include

  • what WEA members, students and tutors did during the war
  • how the war shaped the development of the organisation in the NE
  • how WEA members influenced society in the North East in the post war years.

Planned activities include:

  • a theatre production of a new play drawing on the theme of the WEA in the NE region during World War I.  This will take inspiration from a previous play (again, developed by the WEA with HLF support) which featured the story of Jack Trevena, the Regional Secretary who was incarcerated as a conscientious objector.
  • continued research into stories such as those of Philip Brown, an inspirational WEA tutor, and Thomas Kenny, a Durham pitman who was Brown’s observer. Philip Brown was killed in action in 1915. Thomas Kenny was awarded the Victoria Cross for his heroism in rescuing the fatally wounded Brown from the battlefield.
  • 12 volunteers will visit the war graves of former WEA members who lost their lives in Northern France.  Their findings and experience will be shared on this blog and other social media.
  • the publication of a commemorative edition of ‘The Highway’ (the WEA’s regular newsletter which was published during the First World War). This will feature highlights of the material and research discovered during the project.
  • an exhibition showcasing the research and creative output of our volunteers and students throughout the project.

Project Leaflet (pdf)

If you’d like to find out more about how you can get involved, please contact

Dr Jude Murphy at jmurphy@wea.org.uk

One thought on “About

  1. I am researching on behalf of Search Project associated with Newcastle university. What women did for leisure in the first world war. I would be grateful if you could let me know if you have any information on this subject. Regards Ann Mc Queen

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