Folkestone's Urban Room arts venue is hosting a multi-media exhibition on the International Brigade volunteers from local area. It has been put together by sixth formers at Dover Grammar School for Girls with backing from South East Kent Trades Union Council, plus research help from the IBMT and historian (and IBMT Historical Consultant) Richard Baxell.
Folkestone Against Fascism tells the story of the east Kent volunteers with the help of newspaper cuttings and other archival evidence, along with contemporary reports of the extensive fascist activity in Dover and Folkestone in the 1930s.
In addition, there is a 'black-out poetry' video installation, using pages from Ernest Hemingway's 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' and Esmond Romilly's 'Boadilla'.
Art students have also contributed three sculptures dedicated to one of the Folkestone Brigaders, Harry Addley, who owned a restaurant just a stone's throw away from the exhibition site.
Addley was one of five volunteers from the Folkestone and Dover area. He was killed at Boadilla in December 1936. Another was George Gorman, also from Folkestone, who died at the Ebro in September 1938. Among others who feature in the exhibition was John Black, a Kent miner who was killed at Brunete in July 1937 and who is credited with writing 'The Song of the Anti-Tanks’.
Sculptures celebrating Harry Addley: 'Harry's Jacket', 'Our Inspiration', which uses imagery from Picasso's ‘Guernica', and 'The Crab', referencing his Folkestone fishing links.
At the exhibition’s opening on 27 September, head history teacher at the Dover school Tom Millard said he was proud of his pupils for becoming ‘real historians’. They had used primary source material to compile a new and original piece of history, he said.
Mike Sargent of the South East Kent TUC said the trades council was delighted to have given financial support to the project. The Spanish Civil War and the British response to it were, for political reasons, he suspected, simply not being taught properly or at all in schools.
IBMT Chair Jim Jump also praised the exhibition and said it highlighted the way that history is never wholly in the past. ‘There are plenty of echoes in the present day with what took place in the Spanish Civil War,’ he said.
The volunteers who went to Spain were the first generation to see the need to fight fascism, an evil creed that was still with us in different guises, he added. And the bombing and killing of civilians, as depicted by Picasso’s ‘Guernica’, were still a feature of modern wars, bringing refugees to our shores just like the Basque refugee children who were given shelter in Britain.
In the top picture, head history teacher Tom Millard (right), who led the Folkestone Against Fascism project, with head art teacher Melissa Dachtler (left) and some of their sixth form students at the exhibition's opening on 27 September. In the second picture are representatives of South East Kent TUC, including Mike Sargent (with Panama hat) and IBMT Treasurer Paul Coles (right).
Posted on 28 September 2021.