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Family focus for new military exhibition

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Participants and representatives involved in the Military Families exhibition at the launch event

Military Families: Stories from the Inside to the Outside

A new exhibition focussing on the contributions and experiences of military families has opened in Preston.

‘Military Families: Stories from the Inside to the Outside’ uses visual art and historical accounts to provide an insight into telling the families’ stories of military life, with a particular emphasis on the different context of military and civilian life.

Thirty families from Weeton and Fulwood Barracks and Veterans from Preston’s RAF Wings Centre took part in a series of workshops and focus groups for the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), Lancashire Infantry Museum, Army Welfare Service and RAF Wings Centre collaborative project.

Rebecca Steel, a Doctorate Researcher at UCLan, said: “There is a limit to the academic literature from the perspectives of the military community and we wanted to place their voices and experiences at the heart of this project to ensure their stories are told.

“As a military wife with two young children I have first-hand experience of what life is like when your husband is away on deployment and understand the importance of being able to access support networks. My research aims to identify the education and employment needs of military and veteran families, particularly when they experience transition from military to civilian life.”

The visual displays produced for the exhibition raise issues and opportunities for military family members as experienced during their time of service and once they have left the military and entered civilian society. It aims to place the emphasis upon the importance of family life, making links back to domestic life through the displays created such as tiles, drums or medals.

There is a limit to the academic literature from the perspectives of the military community and we wanted to place their voices and experiences at the heart of this project to ensure their stories are told.

One of the wives from Fulwood Barracks, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “I really enjoyed the art workshops and felt they were a really good way for us to talk about what our lives are like. As wives, our husbands are in the military and they get posted, get access to things like medical care or courses, that us and our kids don’t. We are in the middle of the military and civilians. The project was a good way for us all to talk about the good times and bad times and how we help each other out.”

Sarah Hicks, visual and community artist, supported the summertime creative workshops. She commented: “Art and creative activities are proven to be beneficial for wellbeing. The creative activities in this project helped the participants to relax and get involved in the conversations. The results are fantastic and are a brilliant reflection of emotions and feelings that were expressed during the sessions. Every single person involved should be very proud of what we have achieved.”

The exhibition runs until 21 December 2018 at the Lancashire Infantry Museum, at Fulwood Barracks.

Jane Davies, the Lancashire Infantry Museum Curator, added: "This exhibition highlights the contribution of military families. From a historical perspective, there is very little documented evidence about family life in the military from the Regiments whose history we look after. As part of the project we are documenting military life in today’s society and would welcome any memorabilia and stories we can add to our archives here at the Lancashire Infantry Museum.”

UCLan is also supported through the College for Military Veterans and Emergency Services who act as an advocate for the armed forces community, past and present, and are currently working in partnership with Lancashire County Council, Army HQ North West and the NHS to develop a Lancashire Armed Forces Hub.

The museum is open on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10.00am to 4.00pm and visitors need photo ID to access the museum.

Rachel Atkinson | 08 November 2018