I first met Jane Chapman when she joined the School of Journalism at the University of Lincoln as a Principal Lecturer, in 2005. Our paths subsequently crossed only occasionally before I moved into another school, but I do recall some brief but always interesting conversations.
It was only much later, in September 2013, that I came upon references to Jane’s groundbreaking research into World War 1 comics.
At the time I was running the University’s Public Engagement Blog, which chronicled public engagement activities there over a period of two or so years, until it was apparently axed last year, without explanation. Over the lifetime of the blog, I wrote and published five articles on Jane’s innovative work. To her and my chagrin and to the University’s shame, these posts have been deleted from the public record, along with many others. Fortunately I do keep backups of all my work, so with Jane’s permission, I am now happy to reinstate her story, and this time it won’t be deleted.
I have had this story on the back burner for quite some time, but recently fate intervened when my wife and I stopped at the Chestnut Cafe at Gedney, on the A17 between Boston and Norwich. As we waited for our sandwiches, I noticed a lady on her way in, who then sat at the table next to us. It was one of those tricky moments when you think you recognise someone you haven’t seen for ages, but you don’t want to make a fool of yourself by blurting out a greeting, in case it’s just someone with a resemblance. But after a few minutes I could stand it no longer, so I took the plunge. Fortunately I was right; it was Jane.
As a result of the ensuing conversation, Jane has agreed to let me update the story, and I have decided to compile and publish it now, using the “lost” Public Engagement posts and new content kindly supplied by Jane as source material.
September 2013 (Excerpt):
July 28 next year is the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. A new film by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) features a fascinating research project led by Jane Chapman, Professor of Communications in our School of Journalism (LSJ), revealing how long-forgotten comic strips from 1914-18 contributed to the origins of modern international popular culture – both military and civilian.
Professor Chapman and her research team of are uncovering comics from the UK, Europe, Commonwealth countries and the USA, exploring their unique depiction of epic events of the First World War and their influence on the public consciousness and cultural heritage.
The release of the AHRC film has attracted much media attention, and throughout the project Professor Chapman has been keen to share her knowledge and enthusiasm with the public, including her recent talk in Hull for the global TEDx program.
Professor Chapman commented: “These popular communications were the armed forces’ Great War equivalent of today’s mobile phone citizens’ journalism. The harsh realities of trench warfare create a poignancy of humour through pain: ordinary people, including soldiers were producing their own newspapers, and some were creating early comic strips when they were surrounded by suffering and death threatened.”
Professor Chapman and her team are to curate a major exhibition of First World War comics at the Cartoon Museum in London, and a further exhibition on Second World War comics will follow in 2015. Calendar (ITV)
January 2014 (Excerpt)
The AHRC have announced the names of the researchers selected to participate in the BBC’s ‘World War One at Home’ project. Of those chosen few Professor Jane Chapman has been awarded the role of researcher for the East of England. The project aims to tell the story of the war through the people whose lives it transformed and will be broadcast across all BBC media until 2018, marking the centenary of the war’s beginning and reflecting its duration.
June 2014 (Excerpt)
Since 2011, Jane Chapman and her team of researchers have searched archives in Europe and the USA to uncover cartoon depictions of the two world wars, and explored their influence on the public consciousness.
Now you can see some of their work, a selection of rare trench publications, in an exhibition at the Cartoon Museum in London, until October 19.
Professor Chapman said: “Many people have childhood memories of comic strips and of following war stories with familiar characters on a regular basis. Comics can be for children’s educative purposes, or have a political message focused upon adult audiences, or contain covert propaganda ‘hidden’ in children’s comics. We believe now is the time to open up the public debate about the relevance of these cultural artefacts and how they remain in the public psyche, and that future ‘public history’ (now dominated by popular film and TV) should also include them.”
November 2014 (Excerpt)
“I had no knowledge of the journals and cartoons produced during World War One. I was impressed by the humour that was produced by the men in the midst of the horror of war. I see it as a fine example of keeping one’s sanity and spirit in the midst of death and destruction”
Valuable feedback from one member of the audience at a public lecture given earlier this month by Professor Jane Chapman, from our School of English and Journalism, in Nettleton, Lincolnshire, organised by the Workers’ Educational Association.
Jane presented research findings from her major AHRC-funded project, Comics and the World Wars – A Cultural Record, and she also shared some stories from her experiences of World War One at Home, and the BBC drama series Home Front.
Professor Chapman recently published on soldier cartoons and early comic strips from the trenches and co-curated a World War One exhibition at The Cartoon Museum in London, titled Never Again.
March 2015 (Excerpt)
Following Jane Chapman’s major exhibition at the Cartoon Museum in London, some of the comics are on display in Australia as part of the ‘Perceptions of War’ exhibition at Macquarie University Public Art Gallery in Sydney.
Professor Chapman’s talks in Australia have attracted particular interest from Sydney’s Chinese community; some of them are translating the comics and cartoon material on display, attending the public talks and promoting the exhibition.
‘Perceptions of War’ is on until the 19th March 2015. Jane will be presenting “Humour as History – Soldier Cartoons from the Trenches” on Wednesday 5 March at 1pm. There will also be a free Mandarin guided tour on the 18th of March at 2pm. Macquarie University Notice
Beyond the Trenches AHRC blog
Since the completion of ‘Beyond the Trenches’ Jane has been invited to give talks for various groups, including a keynote at Leeds University for an organisation called Comics Forum, a talk at Wolfson College Cambridge and a public talk for Open Cambridge Week in 2014.
She has also been active in publishing, including two books for Palgrave, a paper on suffragettes smashing windows of West End department stores, e-articles and some chapters in books on World War 1.
When we met by chance at the Chestnut Cafe Jane was researching a long forgotten abandoned German World War 1 prisoner of war camp at Sutton Bridge, South Lincolnshire, for a community project called Everyday Lives in War.
Gallery (Click to enlarge in a new window or tab)