The centenary of World War One was marked in the UK by an unprecedented national investment in the creative arts as a vehicle for remembrance. This scale of funding for commemorative arts, not least under a government whose mantra had been economic “austerity”, demonstrates the importance that the nation-state placed on remembrance and on engaging the public in acts of memory through the arts. In the aftermath of the centenary, funding bodies have commissioned evaluations of this programming. These evaluations have focused on audiences reached, organisations benefitted, and social transformation. What remain occluded by the reports are the experiences of the artists themselves and the curators with whom they worked. In this article I explore the personal and affective experiences of several artists and curators whose work contributed to this national programme of remembrance. I ask: to what extent did artists and curators consciously engage with prior artistic responses to World War One? How did the context of collective commemoration and memory-making inform their practice and the works produced? What did their involvement in this programme of national remembrance make them feel? What were the narratives of the war they wanted to tell? To begin to answer these questions, I draw on a series of one-to-one interviews conducted with a number of artists and curators who were involved in commemorative projects in the UK and overseas.
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