WW1 activity 2: the arrival of the Belgian refugees
Using the information in Learn with Objects WW1 1: new arrivals to Folkestone pupils explore and then discuss two remarkable sources of evidence - a famous oil painting, given to Folkestone as a thank you gift by refugee artist Fredo Franzoni, and some incredible documents belonging to the Lejeune family who escaped war-ravaged Liege.
This activity looks at the experience of refugees who fled war-torn Belgian at the start of WW1. Huge numbers arrived by sea to Folkestone, before finding sanctuary elsewhere in the UK, but many stayed for the duration of the war.
Pupils explore two remarkable sources of evidence - a famous oil painting, given to Folkestone as a thank you gift by refugee artist Fredo Franzoni, and some incredible documents belonging to the Lejeune family who escaped war-ravaged Liege. See Learn with Objects WW1 1: new arrivals to Folkestone.
Through this evidence they discover what it was like to be a WW1 refugee, and about the many kind people in Folkestone, Preston and elsewhere in the UK who helped them.
There is also an opportunity for pupils to recreate the Arrival of the Belgian Refugees as a living painting, by taking part in a thought-provoking freeze-frame activity, and to develop it into a short piece of drama, highlighting different parts of the Belgian refugee experience.
Crucially, participants will be able to think about who’s missing from the painting, something that caused controversy in the newspapers when it was unveiled in 1916, and to create a new painting which includes them.
Finally, comparisons will be made between the welcome the Belgian refugees received in 1914, and that received by refugees in Folkestone today.
This might result in participants creating a matching artwork to Fredo Franzoni’s painting, in a media of their choice, showing the arrival or experiences of young refugees arriving in Folkestone and other parts of East Kent today.
Increased knowledge, understanding and empathy with the experience of refugees in WW1 and today
Deepening understanding - that some groups of people are under-represented in historical sources
KS1-2 History (Folkestone in WW1, Local History Study).
KS1-4 History (the start of WW1, the invasion of Belgium, Britain’s entry into the war, Belgian refugees)
KS1-2 English (speaking and listening, discussions about refugees in WW1 and today)
KS1-4 Art (Creation of a piece of art inspired by Fredo Franzoni’s painting The Arrival of the Belgian Refugees).
A living painting
Children are given the challenge to recreate the picture as a ‘living painting’, researching and taking on different character roles, perhaps dressing up in WW1 costume for maximum effect. Folkestone schools might arrange to go down to Folkestone Harbour to re-enact it there, or do it in the classroom or school hall with a backdrop they have made.
The ‘living painting’ can be developed into a powerful freeze-frame activity. The characters stand still and silent until touched on the shoulder, when they come alive to talk about who they are, what has happened to them, their feelings on reaching the safety of Folkestone and their hopes and expectations for the future.
Members of the Lejeune family can be included among the refugees to tell of their personal experiences, as highlighted in the documents in Learn with Objects WW1 1: new arrivals to Folkestone.
The freeze frame can be developed into a short piece of drama, in three or more scenes, by asking the children to think about a scene that happened earlier in Belgium during the German shelling (based on the Lejeune story perhaps) or on the perilous Channel crossing, and a later scene (of Belgian refugees staying with families or in hotel accommodation in Folkestone, or being welcomed by the Firth family and others in Preston).
Students discuss and research the many people who helped Belgian refugees in Folkestone in WW1, yet don’t appear in Fredo Franzoni’s The Arrival of the Belgian Refugees painting. The challenge is to create a new artwork that includes and celebrates the forgotten people and their humanity.
To find out who’s missing, the students investigate letters in newspapers that controversially raised this question in 1916, together with other sources of evidence about Belgian refugees in Folkestone in WW1.
The missing groups included:
Families - including many poor families from the Folkestone fishing community who welcomed them into their homes.
Women - who did most of the work in welcoming the refugees and raising money for their welfare.
Children - including Folkestone Scouts who helped take refugees and their belongings to temporary lodgings, and those who made friends with Belgian refugee children.
This book contains lots of excellent information:
Folkestone and the Belgian Refugees during World War 1 by Eamonn D. Rooney.
The book is available for £7.95 at Copy-Link, 19a Grace Hill, Folkestone, Kent or from the Folkestone History Society. Copies should also be available from Kent Libraries and Archives.
These websites also contain useful information and images.
Arrival of 21st century refugees
Students make comparisons between the welcome the Belgian refugees received in 1914, and that received by refugees arriving in Folkestone and East Kent today.
This includes research into the stories of recent migrants arriving by sea to Kent and active engagement with local refugee groups such as Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN).
This may include the opportunity for your class to meet with recently arrived refugees, and/or people who work closely with them, and hear their experiences first hand in the classroom. You may even be able to collaborate on the art challenge!
Visit the Kent Refugee Action Network website to find out more:
Building on this engagement, students create a new artwork, inspired by or in response to Fredo Franzoni’s Arrival of the Belgian Refugees painting, but portraying the arrival or experiences of young refugees in Folkestone or other parts of East Kent today.
This can be created in a medium or artform of the student’s choice.
For schools engaged in Arts Award it would make a great project, particularly at Bronze to Gold levels. Folkestone Museum is an Arts Award Supporter and would be delighted to facilitate a visit for students to see the Arrival of the Belgian Refugees painting, the Lejeune family documents and other relevant material.
Learn with Objects links
Use Learn with Objects WW1 1: new arrivals to Folkestone for info and images.