A Question of Conscience: York Big City Read 2016 Lecture

By Nicoletta Peddis



Dr Alexandra Medcalfe, “Archives and Memory: Conscientious Objection in York during World War One”. York Explore Library, 18 October 2016

This year’s York Big City Read is Pat Barker’s best seller Regeneration. 2016 is an important year in terms of the centenary of the First World War and Regeneration has been chosen as a book that explores the impact of war on ordinary people’s lives.

On Tuesday 18 October, Dr. Alexandra Medcalfe from the Borthwick Institute gave a fascinating lecture at York Explore Library. Dr Alexandra Medcalfe specializes in history of York during the 19th century with a focus on history of mental health. On Tuesday, her lecture used a variety of yellowed archival sources to guide the audience through a discussion of conscientious objection during WWI.

The documents examined showed how in York, a military city with a strong religious identity and a politically active community, a wide debate on conscientious objection was raised as soon as war was declared against Germany. Many of the documents examined related to the figure of Arnold Rowntree, who as a Quaker and Liberal MP for the city championed the cause of the city’s conscientious objectors, young men who refused to take up arms. Dr Medcalfe also introduced newspapers articles and letters to newspapers to demonstrate how the issue of conscientious objection aroused strong and contrasting feelings across the city. One newspaper article from the Yorkshire Herald refers to a Quaker meeting as a hotbed of ‘shirkers and slackers’.

Conscientious objectorsPicture: a CO rally during WWI



The criticism on newspaper also targeted Mr Rowntree accusing him of not representing his constituency and of being anti-patriotic. As with many other objectors, Arnold Rowntree simply believed that fighting was wrong. He suggested ideas that could provide opportunities for unarmed service because although they did not want to fight, many were willing to do something to show their support. So the Government set up the Non-Combatant Corps to accommodate those whose consciences forbade them from bearing arms, and Arnold was instrumental in forming the Friends Ambulance Unit, a volunteer group to ferry casualties from the front line.


FA Unit Western FrontPicture: a Friends Ambulance Unit in action on the Western Front.

The lecture was interesting, and especially lively in discussing contemporary feelings about conscientious objection. For the young men who objected during World War One the experience was difficult and traumatic and, while today conscientious objection is often viewed with more understanding and sympathy, public opinion remains divided. Recruitment techniques and nationalist narratives like those adopted in 1914 are still at use today.

York Big City Read events will take place during all October and November and a full list of upcoming events can be found here: https://www.exploreyork.org.uk/introducing-the-big-city-read-programme/. For anyone who is interested in finding out more about conscientious objection in York, on 5 December Clements Hall History Group will host a workshop exploring the impact of WWI conscription at Priory Street Centre in York. More information is available on their website: www.clementshallhistorygroup.wordpress.com.

White Whale Spotted in York: Theatre Mill Production of Moby Dick

This Autumn Theatre Mill return to York, following their summer 2015 courtroom staging of Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution. This time the company are tackling a true Leviathan of a text: Herman Melville’s masterful mid nineteenth-century epic Moby Dick. The maritime novel is being brought to life in a new production from the 19 Oct – 3 Nov 2016 at the historic York Guildhall.


Theatre Mill promise a voyage to the South Seas that begins “in a local fishing inn, an in-the-round interactive theatre set where a group of old fisherman meet. Featuring spectacular live music and songs of the sea this promises to be a bold, exhilarating sea-faring adventure like no other.”


Ahoy mates! There she blows!


Say Owt! Slam #11

By Jessica Osborne



At its first event two years ago York’s very own Say Owt Slam had to turn away over forty people after unexpectedly selling out. Last Saturday people were still scrambling for tickets at the last minute only to be disappointed.


Run by local poets Henry Raby and Stu Freestone who described the slam as “an embracing of the [poetry] scene” the slams held at the Basement seem to always be filled with enthusiastic poetry fans. The slam’s hosts go out of their way to advertise other poetry events around York such as open mics or readings and also set up workshops with their guest poets for those hoping to get inspired, all in an effort to embrace the scene.

say owt slam

Each slam brings old hands and new comers alike to the stage, allowing all writers the perfect platform for building confidence in their writing and even just making their writing known. The most recent slam was no exception to the rule; the room was jam packed with bodies cheering and clicking along to the rhythmic beats of the local poets, booing the harsher judges, and ultimately celebrating spoken word.


In recent years we’ve seen poetry sales falling, with sales of the novel rising. With some publishers (such as Salt) dropping single authored collections, why do poetry slams and readings seem to flourish? Has poetry really been usurped by the novel? Or has it simply moved from page to stage, bringing with it a new generation of poetry fans?


Tickets for Saw Owt Slam #12 (12th Nov) can be found here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1302007043182788/ (Facebook Event for Say Owt Slam #12) Be sure to book early before they sell out!

Say Owt! Poetry Slam

By Jessica Osborne


This weekend sees the return to York of the popular Say Owt Slam #11, featuring Scott Tyrell and hosted by local poet Henry Raby.


Shure mikrofon 55S


Poets will have three minutes to win the votes of judges in the audience. With two rounds of performed poetry it’s sure to be an electric and exciting evening for new comers and returning fans alike.

The slam will take place at The Basement at City Screen on Coney Street.

Be sure to pre-book tickets for only £7 from the link below!

http://www.thebasementyork.co.uk/say-owt-slam-11 (Tickets link)


https://www.facebook.com/events/600806336757534/ (Facebook event link)

Women’s history in York map launch: Saturday 5 March


Map Launching Event - advert materials


Saturday 5 March 2016


York St John | Arts Foyer, Quad South


Come along to York St John University to hear about the creation of a new York map that charts the history of the city in terms of women’s achievements. Famous figures such as Margaret Clitherow, Mary Ward, Grace White, Elizabeth Inchbald and the Brontë sisters all claim some connection with York. Learn more about these brilliant women, and hear about the development of the project before setting off on your own self-guided tour of York.

To book your free ticket:

This event is organised by Dr Elodie Duché, Dr Anne-Marie Evans, and Dr Kaley Kramer

Publishing opportunity for students

‘The Student Pocket Guide’ are looking for new writers for their website.

They describe it as “a great opportunity for you to have your work published on a reputable website and… something to add to your CV”

Once they create a profile for you,

“you can log in and write an article for us any time you like! Ideally, this would be once a week, or more if you would like. We will also make it clear that the article was written by you.”

The magazine currently features interviews with Keith Lemon, Derren Brown and Embarrassing Bodies GP Dr Pixie McKenna.

Jenna, who works for the Guide writes,

“We have a variety of topics for you to write about – including music, film, TV, fashion, technology and student accommodation, to name a few.

If you’re interested in this opportunity then we would love to hear from you!”

Please contact me via email – jenna@thestudentpocketguide.com

In the mean time, please feel free to check out our website: http://www.thestudentpocketguide.com/



Guest Post: Parliament Week with our friends at Explore York Libraries

Saturday 14th November to Sunday 22nd November

Join us at York Explore for a week packed full of exciting and interesting talks and discussions that connects people with Parliament and democracy. This year’s theme is ‘the future of democracy’.

parliament week logo


Sunday 15th November – Amnesty Human Rights Workshop – 2pm-4pm Free


Monday 16th November – Does Parliament Dream of Electric Sheep? – 6.30pm-7.30pm Free


Tuesday 17th November – The Future of the North and Nation – Northern Power House? – 6.30pm-7.30pm Free


Wednesday 18th November – Discover Digital Democracy – 10am-11am Free


Wednesday 18th November – Discover City of York Council Online – 11.30am-12.30pm Free


Thursday 19th November – Cinema@Explore Presents ‘ A Man for All Seasons’ – 6.00pm-7.30pm £4.50


Friday 20th November – Flatpack Democracy – 6pm-8pm Free


Friday 20th November – History Behind the Headlines – 3pm-6pm Free


Saturday 21st November – TTIPing Point for Democracy? – 10.30am-11.30am Free


Saturday 21st November – Defending Democracy – 2pm-4pm Free


Sunday 22nd November – History Behind the Headlines – 1pm-4pm Free


Explore Your Archives Week 2015

Saturday 14th November to Sunday 22nd November

Explore Your Archives is a campaign to showcase the unique potential of archives to excite people, bring communities together, and tell amazing stories. Whether you have never accessed our collections before or are a seasoned researcher, there is something for everyone.



Saturday 14th November – Spotlight on Archives – All Day Free

Spotlight on…York Explore – 10am

Spotlight on…Local History – 11.15am

Spotlight on…The Hunt Collection – 12.30pm

Spotlight on…Family History – 1.45pm

Spotlight on…Crime and Punishment in the Archives – 3pm

Spotlight on…Vicars, Vickers and Viscounts – 4.15pm


Saturday 14th November – Memory Web – 10am-3pm Free


Sunday 15th November – Archi’ved Curated – 11am-3pm Free


Tuesday 17th November – Reading the Past with [uber cool] Teen Reading Group – 4.30pm-5.30pm Free


Wednesday 18th November – Mint Yard Lecture: Printing in 18th Century York – 7pm-8.30pm £6 or £5 with your YorkCard


Thursday 19th November – DIY Archives – 9.30am-11.30am, 12.30pm-2.30pm, 3.30pm-5.30pm Free


Thursday 19th November – Reading the Past with Chatterbooks – 4pm-5pm Free


Friday 20th November – History Behind the Headlines – 3pm-6pm Free


Saturday 21st November – Archive Explorers – All Day Free


Sunday 22nd November – History Behind the Headlines – 1pm-4pm Free


Sunday 22nd November – Archive Explorers – All Day Free


Sunday 22nd November – Behind the Scenes at the Archives – 11am, 1pm and 2pm Free


Sunday 22nd November – Archi’ved Connected – 11am-4pm Free