Narrative of Creativity

The scene for the re-presentation of memory in architectural form in the Fifties and Sixties is precisely, although unwittingly, set by Francis Beckett in a review of new Great War books in 2008. He writes: “The sad remains of Britain’s army came home, forever scarred from seeing things no one should ever see. … Mothers, wives, sisters and sweethearts mourned those they had lost and tried hard to understand the few strange, damaged men they had kept. … Nothing radicalises like war, and no war ever radicalised like the first world war. Revolution was in the air at the start of the 1920s. It petered out as the old men [politicians] reasserted themselves, but after 1945 the generation who fought the war at last ran the country. The post-second world war consensus and the welfare state were made by Major Attlee and Captain MacMillan, and Macmillan’s famous shuffling walk – a gift to satirists of the 60s – was the legacy of war wounds,” (Guardian Review, 17/May/2008, p8).

A melancholic resurgence of interest in the First World War took hold in Britain in the late 1950s and early 1960s, which parallelled the building of the architecture that interests me. It may be the case that, if Sixties architecture provided a container for narrative by recreating the enveloping landscape of the Western Front, then other cultural forms embodied the narrative itself. Thus architecture, being mute, acted as the backdrop, the stage scenery, to a story that needed to be told.

1945: George Orwell publishes Animal Farm, excoriating revolutionary movements through Swiftian satire. Application to the Modern Movement, rather than the Kremlin, can be enlightening. Having disdained decoration and the arch-decorators of the 19th century, the Modernists eventually drifted into the over-concreted, over-barricaded, over-bricked labyrinths of the early Sixties that were nothing more than essays into over-decoration.

1951: The Festival of Britain is held at South Bank in London, bringing to a climax the return of the country from the years of post-World War Two rationing and austerity. It is in stark contrast to the stridently imperialist Great Exhibition of 1924 at Wembley, looking inward to celebrate “a mixed and versatile folk” and the birth of the Welfare State. It is the harbinger of the style of the New Towns, stripped of any reference to Edwardian or Victorian decoration. It is, as the architectural historian Adrian Forty writes, a “narcotic”. However, the drug leads on to a predictable hangover, the inward-looking thrust and thin Formica’d veneer soon giving way to what lay beneath.

1951: Albert Camus publishes l’Homme Revolte, The Rebel, trying to come to terms with the previous four decades, trying to find if innocence can be resurrected from guilt.

1952: Len Hutton leads out the England cricket team against India at Headingley as the country’s first professional captain, a “Player” rather than a “Gentleman”. On being offered the captaincy, he had refused to become a notional amateur so the MCC had decided to break with tradition. In 1962, the distinction between Gentlemen and Players is abolished.

1953: In October, the actor Sir John Gielgud is arrested for importuning in a public toilet in Chelsea. For weeks he and his “evil” kind are vilified in the press. However, when his next play opens, NC Hunter’s A Day by the Sea at the Haymarket, the entire audience rises on his entrance and applauds for several minutes. The standing ovation is repeated throughout the play’s long run.

1955: Waiting for Godot opens in London, with Vladimir and Estragon, Pozzo and Lucky, lost in a bleak landscape reminiscent of no-man’s-land, where they sleep in ditches, get attacked every night, and wonder louldly about the unremitting awfulness of it all. They wait for the enigmatic Godot. Who? God? The Christ? The Ghost of the Unknown Soldier? The themes of lost memory, stagnant time and uncanny landscapes are all present (as always with such contemporary works, my focus is not so much on what the writer intended but, rather, how his words would have been received – what associations, beyond the text, would they have set off?):

(Act I)
Vladimir: Time has stopped

Pozzo: You see my memory is defective.

Estragon: … They all change. Only we can’t.

Vladimir: … You forget everything.

Estragon: I’m unhappy.
Vladimir: Not really! Since when?
Estragon: I’d forgotten.
Vladimir: Extraordinary the tricks that memory plays!

(Act II)
Estragon: Recognize? What is there to recognize? All my lousy life I’ve crawled about in the mud! And you talk to me about scenery! Look at this muckheap! I’ve never stirred from it!
Vladimir: Calm yourself, calm yourself.
Estragon: You and your landscapes! Tell me about the worms!
Vladimir: All the same, you can’t tell me that this bears any resemblance to … (hesitates) … the Macon country, for example [in south-central France]. You can’t deny there’s a big difference.
Estragon: The Macon country? Who’s talking to you about the Macon country?
Vladimir: But you were there yourself, in the Macon country.
Estragon: No, I was never in the Macon country. I’ve puked my puke of a life away here, I tell you! Here! In the Cackon country!

Vladimir: To every man his little cross. Till he dies. And is forgotten.

Estragon: It’s so we won’t think.
Vladimir: We have that excuse.
Estragon: It’s so we won’t hear.
Vladimir: We have our reasons.
Estragon: All the dead voices.

Vladimir: [The dead voices] What do they say?
Estragon: They talk about their lives.
Vladimir: To have lived is not enough for them.
Estragon: They have to talk about it.
Vladimir: To be dead is not enough for them.

Vladimir: Where are all these corpses from?
Estragon: These skeletons.

Vladimir: A charnel-house! A charnel-house!

Estragon: … There’s no lack of void.

Estragon: … That’s been going on now for half a century.

Vladimir: There’s the wound! Beginning to fester!

Vladimir: At this moment in time, all mankind is us.

Pozzo: [Blinded, as many were by gas, including Hitler temproarily] … The blind have no notion of time. The things of time are hidden from them too.

Pozzo: Have you not done tormenting me with your accursed time? It’s abominable! When! When! One day, is that not enough for you, one day like any other day, one day he went dumb, one day I went blind, one day we’ll go deaf, one day we were born, one day we shall die, the same day, the same second, is that not enough for you? They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more. On!

Vladimir: Was I sleeping while the others suffered? Am I sleeping now? Tomorrow, when I wake, or think I do, what shall I say of today? … We have time to grow old. … But habit is a great deadener.

Estragon: Was I long asleep?

1956: Look Back in Anger by John Osborne is first performed on 8 May, at the Royal Court theatre, Sloane Square, London. It is a part of a broader theatrical trend against the drama of reassurance, of what were called “Loamshire” plays orchestrated by the impresario Binkie Beaumont. Samuel Beckett, Graham Greene (The Potting Shed), TS Eliot (The Cocktail Party), Christopher Fry (A Sleep of Prisoners), Peter Ustinov (The Indifferent Shepherd) and John Whiting (Saint’s Day) all tackle themes of conscience, doubt and faith when, as the historian Alan Strachan puts it, the country was facing the problems of a recent world conflict and its cataclysmic legacy. Both the war itself and the problem’s of faith’s survival in a world turned upside down after a confrontation with barbarism, Strachan writes, run like rich seams through much of its output (Independent Review, 3/4/2005).
Look Back sets the scene for a general attitude that the past is somehow an unacceptable place. Possibly because of Osborne’s own family history, the Great War is absent, nevertheless the same central themes echo through the play: of the lost Edwardian idyll, of a horrifying war that destroyed a family (in this case, his father in the Spanish Civil War), the contemporary lack of faith. It is also notable that in Kenneth Tynan’s positive review of the first Royal Court performance he identifies a central theme as: “the determination that no one who dies shall go unmourned”. Tynan’s support and the press-invented “angry” movement were important for the play’s status.:

(Act 1)
Jimmy Porter: [JB Priestley's] like Daddy – still casting well-fed glances back to the Edwardian twilight from his comfortable, disenfranchised wilderness.

Jimmy: … The old Edwardian brigade do make their brief little world look pretty tempting. All home-made cakes and croquet, bright ideas, bright uniforms. Always the same picture: high summer, the long days in the sun, slim volumes of verse, crisp linen, the smell of starch. What a romantic picture. Phoney too, of course. It must have rained sometimes.

Jimmy: Have you ever seen her brother? Brother Nigel? The straight-backed, chinless wonder from Sandhurst? … He’ll end up in the Cabinet one day, make no mistake. But somewhere at the back of that mind is the vague knowledge that he and his friends have been plundering and fooling everybody for generations.

Alison: I keep looking back, as far as I can remember…

(Act II)
Jimmy: [to Alison] You don’t believe in all that stuff. Why, you don’t believe in anything. … She’s an expert in the New Economics. … The old beliefs are going up – up, up and up. There’s going to be a change over.

Jimmy: I watched my father dying – when I was ten years old. He’d come back from the war in Spain, you see. … I was the only one who cared! … All that that feverish failure of a man had to listen to him was a small, frightened boy. I spent hour upon hour in that tiny bedroom. He would talk to me for hours, pouring out all that was left of his life …

Cliff: I’ve been a no-man’s land between [Jimmy and Alison]. Sometimes it’s been still and peaceful, no incidents, and we’ve all been reasonably happy. But most of the time, it’s simply been a very narrow strip of plain hell.

Alison: Poor old Daddy – just one of those sturdy old plants left over from the Edwardian Wilderness that can’t understand why the sun isn’t shining any more.

Colonel [Alison's father]: It was March 1914 when I left England … The England I remembered was the one I left in 1914 … The last day the sun shone  was when that dirty little train steamed out of that suffocating Indian station [in 1947], and the battalion band playing for all it was worth. I knew in my heart it was all over then. Everything.
Alison: You’re hurt because everything is changed. Jimmy is hurt because everything is the same. And neither of you can face it. Something’s gone wrong somewhere, hasn’t it?

(Act III)
Jimmy: There aren’t any good, brave causes left.

Jimmy: We’ll start everything from scratch.

Jimmy: The injustice of it is almost perfect! The wrong people going hungry, the wrong people being loved, the wrong people dying!

Alison: All I wanted was to die. I never knew what it was like.

1956: The exhibition “This is Tomorrow” is held at the Whitechapel Gallery, east London, heralding the birth of pop art in Britain. A central work in the show is Richard Hamilton’s Just What It Is That Makes Today’s Homes So Different. The architect John Weeks, who developed “indeterminate architecture” in 1962, also works closely during the show with Kenneth and Mary Martin.

1958: Paul Raymond leases the old Doric Ballroom in Soho and calls it the Raymond Revue Bar. It is Britain’s first venue with a licence for nude dancing.

1959: In Flanders Fields by Leon Wolff is published. This gives momentum to a trend towards reinterpreting the war that leads to a popular acceptance that, far from being a victory, the struggle had been a disaster.

1960: Karel Reisz’s film of the Alan Sillitoe play Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, with Albert Finney as Arthur Seaton, is successfully released. Seaton, an angry young man in the mould of Jimmy Porter, opens the film and the decade with the line: “What I’m out for is a good time. The rest is propaganda.” Seen from the unusual point of view of a working class man, and depicting warm, adulterous sex (in the liberal regime of John Trevelyan’s BBFC), the film historian Robert Murphy says of it: “There’s a vigour and vitality here which is something new to British cinema, and signals a fundamental shift in British society.” The architectural backdrop is of a switch from Victorian terraced houses to new, semi-detached housing estates.

1961: Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is published. Although a tale of Thirties Britain, in passing she refers to the situation many women found themselves in and, at the same time, underscores the understanding of the effects of the Great War even in early Sixties Britain: “There were legions of [Miss Brodie's] kind during the nineteen-thirties, women from the age of thirty and upward who crowded their war-bereaved spinsterhood with voyages of discovery into new ideas and energetic practices in social welfare, education or religion.” (p42, Penguin edition)

1961: Alan Clark’s The Donkeys is published. This is the first populist diatribe against the leaders of the British armies, particularly those up to 1915, and sparks off an angry and often painful debate into the need for the ‘war of attrition’ favoured by most of the General Staff. It has been described as ‘a shell-burst of a book’, laying bare for the first time the painful view that the destruction of the first British Army, deployed at Loos in 1915, was a waste.
“This is the story of the destruction of an army – the old professional army of the United Kingdom that always won the last battle … and were machine-gunned, gassed and finally buried in 1915.” (ibid, p11)
“Bravery, perfect discipline, absolute conviction of right and wrong and the existence of God; a whole code of behaviour that is now little more than an object of derision.” (Clark1961, p20)
“No-man’s-land was a grassy, tufted waste, pockmarked with brown craters, with here and there the stumps of broken trees and little greyish mounds which, from their situation and contour, suggested human origin.” (ibid, p35)
He is explicit in what was lost: “They [the volunteer army at Loos] were the flower of the richest, most powerful, nation on earth. Behind them stretched the ordered childhoods of Victorian Britain; decency, regularity, a Christian upbringing, a concept of chivalry; over-riding faith in the inevitable triumph of right over wrong; such notions were imbued in them.” (ibid, p174)
“In the three-an-a-half hours of the actual battle [of Loos], the [12 British battalions of almost 10,000 men] sustained 8,246, casualties. The Germans suffered no casualties at all.” (ibid, back cover)

30 May 1962: Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem is premiered in the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral, designed by Basil Spence with the conscious intent of making a major statement of reparation after it was destroyed during Second World War air raids. However, the music uses as its source the poems of Wilfred Owen, who was killed in the last days of the Great War.
The definitive Decca recording (1963) describes the premiere as follows: “The impact of the first performance could certainly be described as a ‘bump’. It was an immediate critical and popular success and seemed to give people something they wanted and needed to hear.”
The notes describe the work as having three levels: private communication (the poems), a formal, ritualised expression of mourning with a plea for deliverance (the Mass settings), and a “zenith (or nadir) of remoteness” (the boys’ chorus). For survivors of the Great War, the work would indeed have represented an extremity of remoteness.
The notes go on to say that true reconciliation, a true turning point according to Donald Mitchell, is only “to be found in the simple and melodious Agnus Dei” … “reflecting Owen’s Christian tradition of Caritas“. The translated words read: “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace.” Not by coincidence, the multivalenced words newly etched in gold in the altar of the ruins of the adjacent old cathedral are “Father Forgive”.
In further notes on Britten’s rehearsals for the premiere, Mitchell says that the 1963 recording “was to achieve virtually iconic status, transcending all boundaries of culture and – more especially – generation.” This is partly due, he adds, to Britten’s conscious “intent to disturb, discomfort, confront and shock [the requiem's] audiences – shock them out of a passive acceptance of the annihilation of war”. Britten shows, he adds, “a fiery conviction, a kind of incandescent commitment”. These are precisely the sort of qualities associated with architects of the Modern Movement, the sorts of qualities that were so lacking in a society described as suffering a “massive loss of self-belief”.
The Times reported that the concert ended with a prolonged, stunned silence, before the audience erupted in applause.
The critic Anna Picard, in The Independent of Sunday of 8/8/2004, emphasises the moment of shared feeling between Owen and Britten: “in Owen’s Anthem For Doomed Youth and Strange Meeting is the emotional meat of the work. Here is its authenticity. Here is its authority. For here is the voice of a man for whom the horrors of war were something smelt and felt, not extrapolated from a news reel. And here is the music of a composer who had the courage to engage with a text beyond his experience”.

1962: Euston station, symbol of the discredited Victorian past that had led to war and loss, is razed. The great Doric arch [where the cavernous concourse now stands], a metaphorical gateway to imperial history, is levelled though there is no pressing need.

1963: For six months the Profumo affair keeps Britain spellbound. Scenes of debauched parties at Cliveden house in Berkshire among diplomats, politicians and prostitutes signals the end of deference towards the Establishment and gives licence to the masses to embark on the Swinging Sixties.

1963: Peter Brook’s film of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is released, with an X certificate due to its thematic assertion, as Brook says, that “The beast is within the kids themselves”. The child actors unanimously agreed later that the certification was correct. Made by Janus Films, and in tune with the theme of this work in relation to the ambivalent mood of the Sixties as familiar social structures crumbled, the production suggests that people carry the possibility of good and evil within them. They can go either way.

19 March 1963: Oh! What a Lovely War was first performed at the Theatre Royal in Stratford, east London, by Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop. [A film version, directed by Richard Attenborough with a fine cast, was made in 1969, but the transfer from the stage did not work particularly well.] The stage sets used photographic slide images of the trenches projected on to the backdrop. Using old war songs and improvisation to give the impression that the play reflected a well-spring of commonly felt emotion, the production ridiculed those responsible for the war. It was hugely popular.
In Joan Littlewood’s introduction to the published script, she brings in the idea of shared memory:
“It was Vic Spinetti’s singing. He’d had a taste of army life and that set the ball rolling. First one, then another had some story to tell, a story that had been handed down in the family, part of our national heritage.” (Theatre Workshop, 1963, pIX)
The battle scenes are graphic:
French Officer – The battlefield is unbelievable; heads of corpses, French and German, lying everywhere, rifles in hand. Thousands of dead lying in rows on top of each other in an ascending arc from the horizontal to an angle of sixty degrees. … Two or three men go mad every day. (ibid, p16)
The role of football is hinted at:
German Soldier – We meet you! Meet you in the middle!
Fourth [British] soldier - Middle of Piccadilly?
First [British] soldier – See you in the penalty area!
Some of the projected slides on the stage include:
“Three Tommies walking across duckboards in a muddy field.”
“Dead Germans lying in a shallow trench in a peaceful-looking country field.”
“A field with nothing but white wooden crosses as far as one can see.”
Echoing Robin Hood Gardens:
First soldier – Peaceful? An’ what’s that dirty great mound of earth confrontin’ us?
Sergeant – Isn’t it an earthwork then? An’ near enough to protect us.
The terror of no man’s last is clear:
British general – Night has fallen. The clouds are gathering. The men are lost somewhere in no man’s land.
And other terrible sights are transformed into song:
“If you want the old battalion, we know where they,
They’re hanging on the old barbed waire,
We’ve seen them, we’ve seen them.”
And always the thought of home:
“Though the lads are far away,
They dream of home.”
A home which will, one day, prove not as homely as they might have imagined:
“There was a front, but damned if we knew where.”

22 March 1963: In stark contrast to the pull of the past evident in Oh What a Lovely War, the future announced itself, with startling synchronicity, four days after the opening performance when The Beatles released their first album Please Please Me. The cultural historian Ian MacDonald describes the final track ‘Twist and Shout’, with Paul McCartney’s triumphant ‘Hey!’ at the end, as having an intensity that had never been recorded in a British pop studio. Their previous hit single ‘Love Me Do’, released on 5 October 1962, had given a foretaste of this watershed. MacDonald writes: “Many UK pop musicians have since recalled sensing something epochal in ‘Love Me Do’ when it first appeared. It blew a stimulating autumn breeze through an enervated pop scene, heralding a change in the tone of post-war British life matched by the contemporary appearances of the first James Bond film, Dr No, and BBC TV’s live satirical programme That Was The Week That Was. From now on, social influence in Britain was to swing away from the old class-based order of deference to ‘elders and betters’ and succumb to the frank and fearless energy of ‘the younger generation’. The first faint chime of a revolutionary bell, ‘Love Me Do’ represented far more than the sum of its simple parts. A new spirit was abroad: artless yet unabashed – and awed by nothing.” (MacDonald, 1994, p60).

Early 1960s: The art movement inspired by the Great War, Dadaism, experiences a revival of interest. At the same time, abstraction is seen as having become the academic art of its time, as lifeless and disconnected as idealist painting had become in the years before Baudelaire’s 1963 essay “The Painter of Modern Life”. A new mood for representation, in the works of Gerhard Richter and Andy Warhol for example, takes hold.

1963: AJP Taylor’s The First World War: An Illustrated History is published (dedicated by the author to Joan Littlewood after Oh What a Lovely War).
The opening paragraph of the preface stands out for me in the way it prefigures so many of the themse of this work: “The First World War cut deep into the consciousness of modern man. … Half a century afterwards the experiences of it are not stilled. … I have tried to resolve the paradox that men were passionately engaged in the war and hated it at the same time. … The generals were overwhelmed. … All fumbled more or less helplessly. … The unknown soldier was the hero of the First World War. He has vanished, except as a cipher, from the written records. He lives again in the photographs. … Photographs take us into the trenches and the munitions factories. We see again the devastated countryside. Here are the men who fought, suffered, and died; the human beings behind the ringing phrases. Thanks to the camera, we can relive the First World War, and not merely read about it.” (Taylor, 1963, p11)
The book adds academic weight to Alan Clark’s essay and establishes as the mainstream perspective the view of the war as a profound failure, this having only been hinted at in the Thirties.
He pinpoints one of the roots of the cynicism that developed towards, even among, the General Staff: “Those British generals who prolonged the slaughter kept their posts and won promotion; any who protested ran the risk of dismissal.” (ibid, p84) And another, concerning Gallipoli: “[General Sir Ian] Hamilton still talked of victory. At home in England, his advice was discredited. Some ministers wanted to withdraw; others talked of the blow British prestige. At Gallipoli men went on dying.” (ibid, p96). And another: “Defence in depth turned ordinary offensives into pointless slaughter.” (ibid, p97). And yet another: “Like [French General] Joffre, [General Sir William] Robertson held that the Allies were gamblers with the longer purse – their money being the lives of men.” (ibid, p104)
Taylor also shows how fiath was put to the test: “[At the Somme] the ordinary British soldiers, most of whom had no experience of previous fighting, imagined that they were about to win a great victory. This unreasoning faith was the link which bound them to Haig, the Commander-in-Chief whom they never saw.” (ibid, p130)
He banishes doubt in his judgements: “Strategically, the battle of the Somme was an unredeemed defeat.” And follows this up in the starkest terms with its profound consequences: “Idealism perished on the Somme. The enthusiastic volunteers were enthusiastic no longer. They had lost faith in their cause, in their leaders, in everything except loyalty to their fighting comrades. … The Somme set the picture by which future generations saw the First World War: brave helpless soldiers; blundering obstinate generals; nothing achieved.” (ibid, p140)
His insights are as profound: “In 1917 [after the Bolshevik revolution and the entry of the US into the war] European history, in the old sense, came to an end. World history began.” (ibid, p165)
He is unswerving in his criticism of Haig: “The truth was simple: Haig had resolved blindly that this was the place [Ypres, which led to Passchendaele] where he could win the war. He never inspected the front line. He disregarded the warnings of his own Intelligence Staff against the mud. No one else shared his confidence.” (ibid p189)
And Passchendaele is where Taylor saw the greatest injustice done: “[Former generals French and Wilson urged that the campaign should be ended. It still went on. There was another grandiose offensive in October; a final attack on 7 Novemebr, which took the ruins of Passchendaele, a village which no longer existed. Then Haig stopped. The campaign had 'served its purpose'. What purpose? None." (ibid, p192) "Third Ypres was the blindest slaughter of a blind war. Haig bore the greatest repsonsibility." "On 8 November Haig's Chief-of-Staff visited the fighting zone for the first time. As his car struggled through the mud, he burst into tears, and cried: 'God God, did we really send men to fight in that?' His companion replied: 'It's worse further up'." The brief fillip of the breakthrough at Cambrai weeks later, which quickly faltered, put another nail in the coffin: "A court of enquiry solemnly reported that it was all the fault of the men and junior officers; the generals, as usual, were without blame." (ibid, pp193-5)
The loss of faith keeps cropping up: "Imperial authority in Austria-Hungary broke down not so much from actual hardship as from general loss of faith." (ibid, p226)

1964: The Great War is broadcast by the BBC. This is the corporation’s first large-scale documentary series and a great success. It coincides with the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of war and, through original film footage, its 26 hour-long episodes allow viewers to see projected in front of them the experience of life in the trenches (echoing the intention of Oh What a Lovely War with its projected images on set, and AJP Taylor's illustrated history). Given that this meant vicariously reliving the war for an hour every week for six months, it might be suggested that viewing was a real, though unacknowledged, form of therapy. [Available on BBC video.]

1964: Grammar schools begin to be abolished as Labour tries to revamp Rab Butler’s wartime reformation of the school system and the failure of the Grammar/Secondary Modern system. Comprehensives take their place, and it is quickly realised that a sense of belonging and a strong ethos is lost with the disappearance of the grammars.

June 1965: Benjamin Britten’s Curlew River is first recorded. The opera, described as ‘A Parable for Church Performance’ is based on a mediaeval Japanese Noh play.
This device of importing an obscure artistic form, but ending up with an essentially British Sixties predicament, is reminiscent of the use of Italian hill villages as a model for architectural projects such as Lillington Gardens by Darbourne and Darke. Bereft as the time was of the expertise of pre-1914 Britain, a time paradoxically of just as much, if not more, technological and philosophical breakthrough, it is as if creative minds cast their net ever wider for inspiration. The paradox being that they ended up anyway right where they began.
The opera concerns the search of a mother for a lost son. The music travels with her through her madness, and ends with her final acceptance that “he is dead”. Hundreds of thousands of bodies were never found on the Western Front, most of them obliterated by heavy ordnance. Their mothers’ response is not usually recorded.
Traveller: The boy was her child…
Pilgrims: He was her child …
Ferryman: Who would have dreamt it? The boy who died here! Her sad search is ended. It is ended after months of weary searching.
Pilgrims: She has found his grave here by the river. Is this a dream?
Madwoman [the mother]: O Curelw River, cruel Curlew, where all my hope is swept away! Torn from the nest, my bird, crying in empty air…
The lamb is devoured by the carrion crow… The innocent lamb…
Where shall I turn, where shall I turn, tell me now! Take me back… take me back…
[In the 2004 Prom version of Curlew River, by Graham Vick's Birmingham Opera Co, allusions were made to the Soham Murders. It would be interesting, and possibly more revealing, to set it amid the Western Front tourist trade of the 1920s, which catered to families searching the battlefields.]

July 1 1966: The 50th anniversary of the first day of the battle of the Somme, often described as the most calamitous day in the history of British forces when 20,000 men were killed

July 30 1966: England beat Germany 4-2 in the football World Cup final at Wembley. The commentary ends with the words: “They think it’s all over. It is now.” On Christmas Day 1914, a German officer with the Royal Saxon regiment, Johannes Niemann, recorded in his diary how a British soldier with the Seaforth Highlanders had produced a football that led to an impromptu game in no-man’s-land between Frelinghien and Houplines on the Western Front. The Germans won 3-2, but fighting resumed that night.

1967: Death of the WWI poet Siegfried Sassoon, aged almost 81. He was noted for his apparent detached from the times that surrounded him. The writer Anthony Powell, who visited him in the Sixties, said that “for Captain Sassoon, though no longer involved in it, the first war was still in progress”. Powell though that the vague, dreamy squire, wandering around his sombre manor house, “looked like a ghost from the fields of Passchendaele or Bapaume”.

May 1968: Evenements in Paris inaugurate the era of “informalisation” and the triumph of permissive behaviour.

1970: Obscenity trial of editors of the fashionable Oz magazine at the Old Bailey ends in jail terms and marks the end of naive initial phase of Sixties’ thrust towards a more liberated future.

1971: Drawing on his work as a current affairs TV reporter in the 1960s, Mike Hodges makes Get Carter with Michael Caine, whose cold violence is set amidst backdrops that include a brutalist multi-stroey car-park in Newcastle. Rob Crossan, in the FT of 12/9/2009, wrote that the film depicted “a society self-destructively bent on inflicting the maximum damage on its own democratic organs”.

1972: Soho Society is set up, leading to Soho Housing Association, an example of one of many community groups forming at the time as the highpoint of social disintegration and reformation passes.

1974: The final highwater mark of the destruction of the old order passes with the centrally planned reorganisation of county and urban boundaries. Shires are abolished and county names such “Central” are introduced.

1974: “The Destruction of the Country House exhibition at the V&A makes a huge impact and effectively kick-starts the “heritage” movement. By now, there has been enough destruction of the old.