World War One: The Cultural Front

World War One: The Cultural Front

A BBC Radio 4 history series


Francine Stock explores how the Great War shaped culture and society between 1914 and 1918

The First World War was the great military and political event of its time. But it was also an imaginative event: one that profoundly altered the ways in which men and women thought about the world, and about culture and its expressions. In this compelling five-series programme, journalist and presenter Francine Stock scrutinises the diverse responses of artists and entertainers to the bitter realities of war, and reveals how their new perspectives entered the public consciousness.

Each series focuses on a specific year of the conflict, beginning with 1914, as the written word was mobilised; the music industry embraced both patriotism and escapism; and painters including Kandinsky created some of their most powerful work. Stock shows how the aftershocks of war sparked the rise of modernism and the avant-garde in 1915, and looks at how trauma was addressed in the works of Freud and the compositions of Debussy. Moving on to the following year, she demonstrates how the carnage at Verdun and the Somme inspired Dadaism, galvanised creators from Picasso to Apollinaire - and made the tank into an unlikely icon on the home front.

Looking at 1917, Stock tells the story of the Harlem Hellfighters and how jazz conquered France; finds out about the popular cross-dressing theatre troupes who were taking the Front Line by storm; and listens as the first meeting between poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen is celebrated in a landmark violin performance using instruments made in memory of the duo. She concludes by examining the war's final deadly year, as US troops arrive on the Western Front, Charlie Chaplin makes a film about a private with dreams of becoming a war hero; the Austro-Hungarian Empire falls; and Elgar, Stanley Spencer and Rebecca West anticipate the end of the hostilities and the soldiers' return.

Production credits
Presented by Francine Stock
Produced by Tom Alban, Mark Burman, Caitlin Smith, Mark Rickards, Clare Walker, Georgia Catt, Sarah Shebbeare, Elizabeth Duffy
Production Coordinator: Anne Smith
Editors: John Goudie, Philip Sellars

Readers: Clive Hayward, Heather Craney, Sean Baker, Susan Jameson, Sam Rix, Sargon Yelda, Brian Protheroe, Nicola Ferguson, Nick Underwood, Lucy Doyle, Sean Murray, Ryan Whittle, Liam Fernandez, Cameron Percival and other members of the Radio Drama Company
Singer: Eloise Irving
Pianist: Simon Townley

First broadcast on the BBC Radio 4 on the following dates:

Series 1
Words for Battle 8 March 2014
With Catriona Pennell, Samuel Hynes, Tim Kendall, Sophie De Schaepdrijver, Mark Derez, Jan Van Impe, Gerhard Hirschfeld
Arf a Mo, Kaiser: Popular Culture on All Fronts 15 March 2014
With Eloise Irving, Simon Townley, John Mullan, Susan Scott, Rachel Moore, Gerhard Hirschfeld, Stefan Goebel, Hubertus Jahn, Anita O'Brien
Kandinsky, Khaki and Kisses 22 March 2014
With Jane Potter, David Boyd Haycock, Richard Cork, Stacy Gillis, Stefan Goebel

Series 2
Glimpses of a Modern World 18 April 2015
With Genevieve Bell, Pat Mills, Samuel Hynes, Guillaume de Syon, Richard Slocombe, Stewart Kelly, Bryony Dixon, Mark Wollaeger
A Cubist War 25 April 2015
With James Taylor, Nicholas Rankin, Susan Harrow, Santanu Das, Peter Stanley, Christian Liebl
War on the Mind 2 May 2015
With David Code, Anna Farthing, Edgar Jones, John Forrester, Dorothy Price, Matthew Hollis

Series 3
Bleeding France 9 April 2016
With Jay Winter, Alice Kelly, Linda Robertson, Sylvie Leray-Burimi
The Tank and the Home Fires 16 April 2016
With Cathy Haill, Helen Brooks, Kimberley Reynolds, Diana Thompson, Vincent Thompson, Richard Slocombe, David Wiley, Alistair Fraser
Dada and Defiance 23 April 2016
With Toby Thacker, Alan Dein, Jed Rasula, Jan Rueger, Emily Finer, Boris Dralyuk

Series 4
The Jazz Kings Go to War 12 August 2017
With Max Brooks, Reid Badger, Adriane Lentz-Smith, Noble Sissle Jr
Reality and Reconstruction 19 August 2017
With Steve Burnett, Catherine Walker, Boris Dralyuk, Richard Cork, Sylvain Bellanger, Suzannah Biernoff, James Partridge, Sarah Crellin
An Intimate War 26 August 2017
With Jason Crouthamel, Anke Vetter, Kevin Clarke, Jay Winters, Laraine Porter, Simon Rothon

Series 5
1918: Chaplin Goes to War 8 September 2018
With David Luben, Claggett Wilson Read, Lucie Dutton, Ailsa Grant Ferguson
1918: Vienna and the Fall of an Empire 15 September 2018
With Michael Haas, Marcus Patka, Ivan Ristic, Nicolai Guteman
The Return of the Soldier 22 September 2018
With Boris Dralyuk, Martin Sorrell, Toby Thacker, Jane Potter, David Haycock, Ann Danks

© 2022 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd. (P) 2022 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd.

About the author

Francine Stock

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