IT IS up to the community to mark Swindon’s role in the First World War during this centenary year and remember the lives it claimed.
That’s the message from South Swindon MP Robert Buckland, who has shown his support for the voluntary history group Swindon in the Great War by raising the difficult issue of funding in the House of Commons.
Mr Buckland quizzed Ed Vaizey, Under Secretary of State for Culture, in Parliament last week after the group behind the movement to commemorate the 1914-18 war in the town raised concerns about how to seek funding.
While he defended the fact there is no direct funding for events at a local authority level, Mr Buckland said he had been assured there was money being made available by the Government for community groups such as Swindon in the Great War.
In Parliament, Mr Buckland said: “Will my honourable friend work with me and the dedicated voluntary group Swindon in the Great War, which is doing everything it can to mark the significance of the centenary with commemorative events, but which is finding the process of obtaining funding a challenging one?”
Mr Vaizey, MP for Wantage in Oxfordshire, replied: “My honourable friend is a neighbour of mine and I know that there is a lot of cultural activity and innovation in Swindon.
“He will have many small community groups that will want to apply for funding, and I will certainly assist him as much as I can.
“The Heritage Lottery Fund is extremely keen to make the application process as simple as possible.”
Mr Buckland said he would now work with the group to aid them in applications for grants, which could come from a £15m pot from the Heritage Lottery Fund or a further £6m set aside for community events that promote education among young people.
There is also £5.3m for battlefield tours available to schools, which Swindon in the Great War has expressed an interest in.
The Tory MP said: “I think it’s hugely important that we remember the war – it changed the country as a whole in many ways and it is important the young people of today understand that.
“I think these type of events should be provided by community groups like Swindon in the Great War, who have the expertise and passion to see it through.
“Where they might need some help is by finding funding and removing obstacles and that’s where politicians can come in.”
Helen Miah, Swindon Council’s head of culture, said the authority was already helping local groups such as Create Studios with funding applications, as well as staging events like regular exhibitions at the Museum and Art Gallery.
She said: “We would be more than happy to help anyone fill out applications and they can email me on email@example.com.”
For more details on the Swindon in the Great War campaign, visit www.swindongreatwar.org.uk l If you have any personal stories about ancestors from the period or any commemoration events, please email newsdesk@ swindonadvertiser.co.uk or visit the Adver’s dedicated webpage at www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/ swindon_great_war.