In Living Memory - Olympia McEwan
The German Occupation of the Channel Islands during WW2 continues to inspire generations of artists, poets and writers.
In Living Memory is a commemoration and celebration for the 75th anniversary of the liberation of these islands. Contributors to the book include artists, authors, poets, historians and survivors, culminating in a publication coordinated by artist Olympia McEwan.
Many of the artworks and all of the poetry has been specifically created for the book. This exhibition is a wonderful opportunity to see these original works of art, in this beautiful gallery setting.
This exhibition is curated in conjunction with the Greenhouse Gallery to commemorate seventy-five years of freedom and to showcase the works of art and poetry from this inspired publication. The purpose of the book is to re-present the subject of the Occupation of the Channel Islands to a new audience and to shed further light on the complex world experienced by these brave few islanders.
“I am not a specialist in this subject. However, my intention was to seek out those who are; to gain a better understanding. I am an artist and I have a passion for people and their stories. My interest lies in the social history of the occupation – the lived experience of this last generation of survivors. I also felt that this project was time-critical, as those with first-hand experience of the war years are becoming fewer in number.” Olympia McEwan
As curator of the book, Olympia wanted to bring a fresh approach to the subject and to call upon those whose work would collectively illustrate this multifaceted moment in the history of the Channel Islands. The author Gilly Carr has worked tirelessly to uncover and present the stories of often forgotten islanders, whose lives were indelibly touched by trauma and loss. Annie Barrows shares her trepidation as an author and resolves to find a universal message in her book (The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society) - that of respect and of a deeper understanding in our shared humanity. Throughout their working practise, artists such as Jeni Snell and Chris Foss have been inspired to use the iconic German fortifications in their paintings, to illustrate their imposing nature on the beautiful cliffs and coastline of our islands but with an added personal twist. And poets such as Trudie Shannon and Nicholas Rowe have drawn on family memories passed through the generations, to create their insightful and moving poetry.
“I can hardly believe it was seventy-five years ago that Guernsey was liberated from Nazi Occupation. It is of course vitally important that we keep memories alive of this momentous time in Guernsey’s history for future generations. In spite of terrible hardship and fear that they lived under, local people went out of their way to ensure that others were safe and fed. The occupation years of 1940 to 1945 were very dark and troubled years, but the people of Guernsey came together and helped each other. That shared experience has greatly influenced how we have lived our lives personally and shaped the island’s character in the years since.” Molly Bihet
“There are still many islanders who remember May the 9th 1945, when the bells of the Town Church rang out after five years of silence. They remember singing ‘Sarnia Chérie’ to mark the arrival of the British liberating troops. A day that would from then on be known as Liberation Day.”
Dame Mary Perkins
There are many people to whom I am indebted. I am grateful to all those who gave their time, knowledge, and skills to this book – starting with all my wonderful contributors, without whom this book would not exist; Ethel Brouard, Marion Dorey, Shirley Falla, Peter Gaudion, Margaret Le Conte, Mavis Lemon, Diana Nicole, Janet de Santos, Naomi Taylor, Paul Chambers, Mark Cook, Chris Foss, Rosanne Guille, Molly Harris, Sian Jones, Frances Lemmon, Pip Looijenga, Jeni Snell, Ryan Morley, Annie Barrows, Gilly Carr, Richard Fleming, Richard Guille, Nick Le Messurier, Nicholas Rowe, Trudie Shannon and Karen Simpson.
I would also like to thank Steve Foote (Blue Ormer Publishing), Claire Allen (Director of Guernsey Literary Festival), Elmarie Brache (Coach House Gallery), Maggie Le Conte for liaising with Margaret Le Conte and Chris Foss, Lisa Burton for her assistance with the Museum Collection, Paul Chambers and Graham Jackson for their assistance with the high quality images we can enjoy in the book, to Molly Bihet for her warm welcome into her home and to her daughter Carol for assisting with the introduction to the book. Thank you also to Ryan Morley for helping to create the cover design, to Anna Smith and Debbie Torode for their awesome typing skills, to Jane Moss and Mary Carey for their eagle-eyed proofreading and thank you to Bianca Sarafian for her awesome editing advice. And finally, I would like to say a huge thank you to Dame Mary Perkins, for her support right from the beginning of the project and for her sponsorship of the printing of the book.
Thank you also to Russ Fossey and Monika Drabot from the Guernsey Arts Commission for their enthusiasm for the book and kind offer to show the visual arts and some of the poetry in this beautiful Greenhouse Gallery exhibition. Finally my thanks to Art Foundation Guernsey for sponsoring the exhibition.