Three days of Festivities – 17-19 June 2016
Wow – what a three days at the Eighth in the East Festival weekend!
We were so pleased to welcome over four hundred people to the UCS Waterfront campus during the event. And many, especially on the free family fun day, were learning about the story of the 8th USAAF for the first time. We’d like to start by saying a very big thank you to everyone who made the weekend so special! Especially our friends from the aviation and airfield museums who put on such great displays in the foyer throughout the weekend.
The festival kicked-off in style on Friday 17 June when we launched our new 8th in the East exhibition at a special reception event. This evening event was attended by one hundred people, bringing together key policy makers, the USAF, and those who’ve participated in the project. The evening started with a brilliant dance routine from the students of Springfield Junior School, Ipswich, expertly tutored by Sam Moss from Dance East and Ester and David Tutthill.
Dr Dan Todman, from Queen Mary University of London, set the historical scene, before a run through of the Eighth in the East project by staff members. Next up we had speeches from Colonel Torkleson, Base Commander of the USAF at RAF Mildenhall, and Robyn Llewellyn, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund for the East of England.
On Saturday 18 June we welcomed over one hundred people for a day-long series of talks & debates. The programme enabled people to hear from a variety of leading experts, who shared their knowledge about different aspects of the 8th USAAF. Dr. Sam Edwards, Manchester Metropolitan University, began the day in real style with an exhilarating and well received presentation about how we remember, and the memorials the 8th USAAF. It was an amazing lecture in which everyone learned something new about this story.
Dr. Lucy Bland, Anglia Ruskin University, followed and she helped us to better understand the sensitive issues around race and sex during wartime, before Dr. Nick Hiley and John Field took us up to lunch with a fascinating and fun story of the cartoonist Carl Giles and his relationships with African – American GIs and Ipswich.
Mike Liggins, BBC Look East, presented the next session that shared local people’s memories of the 8th USAAF, however the stars of the show were those who remembered the Americans. A packed lecture theatre was held captivated for nearly an hour by the memories of Mike Bailey, Bridget Barber and David Lee. Their memories serving to transport each and every one of us back to the days when the skies of our region were packed with aircraft and our streets with American’s.
We debated the future of airfield museums, led expertly by Emma Winch of Hackney Museum and Archive, joined on the panel by Carl Warner, Claire Adler and Miriam Stead, with fantastic contributions from the floor. We heard and saw more about the fantastic wall art, left behind by the American servicemen, when Si Barber took us on a photographic journey around the abandoned airbases of the region.
The afternoon also showcased two extra special new films commissioned by the project – The Story of Building a Museum, which shares the fanatic hard work of the volunteers at Bottisham Airfield Museum in building a new museum, and TOKKO’s Take, the wonderful film made by students of a film school at TOKKO Youth Space in Luton.
The packed Saturday programme ended with an insight from Carl Warner of the American Air Museum, IWM Duxford, into the stories that can be shared from the resources and images held with their ever growing and already iconic online archive.
We were back again bright and early to the University on Sunday 19 June, Father’s Day, with our free family fun day. The day beginning with a dozen or so people enjoying an Ipswich at War walk around the town led by our friends at the Ipswich Tourist Information Office. We then enjoyed a fabulous day of arts and craft activities, films and dressing up, all topped-off by the fabulous 1940s disco put together by Andy AV8.
We reckon it was a first to hold a disco in-between the display boards of a history exhibition- and it was certainly fun to do so! Alongside the 1940s dancers, many of the public, young and old, joined in the dancing as we really got into the swing.
The festival ended with another of our great ‘walk’s through history’ – at the nearby Martlesham Heath Airfield. Over eighty people joined our community archaeologist to explore their local landscape and the impact that the 8th USAAF had on the places where they live. These walks really are a great way to bring the local community together and help promote and preserve this vital story, and this one proved the fitting way, out on the paths trodden by the American servicemen and women to bring the curtain down on a great few days.
The weekend also saw the launch of our new Touring Exhibition. This exciting and original display shares the landscape and social history of the 8th US Army Air Force and explores the legacy of their time in the east of England during World War Two. Don’t forget to look out for the chance to see this, near you, real soon!
The festival was made possible by the support of University Campus Suffolk , the Heritage Lottery Fund and all the volunteers and students who gave up their time to make it such a wonderful occasion. Thank you – and see you soon.
You can view the full weekend gallery here
We asked for people’s feedback on the festival weekend and was really pleased to receive so many replies. You can read all the feedback from the weekend by clicking on the links below.