On the one hand, I am researching the backgrounds of the names appearing on our local WW1 memorial, with the object of writing a book, the publication of which will coincide with the hundredth anniversary. On the other hand, I am involved, through my membership of the Tavistock Peace Action Group, in devising an exhibition which will not only remind people of the true cost of that war but also promote peace. Finding out the personal stories of the thirty two men who died in the former exercise informs my contributions to the latter and convinces me that it is a worthwhile exercise.
Within that context, I have just signed an open letter organised and publicised by the No Glory in War group. The letter reads:
We are disturbed, therefore, to hear that David Cameron plans to spend £55,000,000 on "truly national commemorations" to mark this anniversary. Mr. Cameron has quite inappropriately compared these to the "Diamond Jubilee celebrations" and stated that their aim will be to stress our "national spirit". That they will be run at least in part by former generals and ex-defence secretaries reveals just how misconceived these plans are.
Instead we believe it is important to remember that this was a war that was driven by big powers' competition for influence around the globe, and caused a degree of suffering all too clear in the statistical record of 16 million people dead and 20 million wounded.
In 2014, we and others across the world will be organising cultural, political and educational activities to mark the courage of many involved in the war but also to remember the almost unimaginable devastation caused.
In a time of international tension we call on writers, actors, musicians, teachers and campaigners to join with us to ensure that this anniversary is used to promote peace and international co-operation.
I join many celebrities in appending my signature to this letter (Simon, Callow, Tony Benn, Patrick Steward, Terry Jones, Brian Eno, Ken Loach, Timothy West to name just a few) and more details can be found on the No Glory website (here). The more signatories, the better and the more weight it will carry.