Discovering Silent Film at Turner Sims: 1918, At Home, At War

Arts Ambassador and final year BA Geography student Nicole Wong reflects on Silent Film Fortnight’s final event and her first time at Turner Sims. Image: The Guns of Loos. 

On a fine Thursday evening, I made my way to Highfield campus. I stepped off the U1A by Jubilee Sports Hall and began making my way through to the Red Brick area. Whilst approaching, I get this feeling of our campus being alive in the evening. I looked to my right and I saw our student union bar was packed with people (OF COURSE, its karaoke night!). But 500 metres further on from this rowdy bar, past the darkness of the night, I saw this little light glowing in the distance. You might wonder what else apart from the union bar could possibly be open at this hour of the night. The nearer I got to the light, this little auditorium appeared amidst the noise of students’ badly singing and there it was, Turner Sims concert hall.

By day, Turner Sims might just be another building you walk past and never really take much notice of it as you dash from lecture to lecture. But by night, especially that Thursday night, Turner Sims transport myself and Gabi (fellow Arts Ambassador) back to World War 1, showing insights of the life as a soldier.

We attended a silent film screening with live music accompaniment – 1918, At Home, At War, presented by Turner Sims in partnership with the University’s Film and Music departments and part of the Humanities Faculties Great War, Unknown War programme in commemoration of the WW1 Centenary.

At first, I didn’t know what to expect. I genuinely thought I will be sitting through an hour- long silent film whilst the poor pianist Neil Brand, would be playing for the entire length of the film. But the performance took me by surprise, more than I bargained for. It was a night of visual and audio sensation. The whole performance consisted of a series of films from WW1 rather than a single movie, accompanied not only by the sound of the piano but Neil, himself provided narratives guiding the audience along and making sense to the stories behind each film. The moving pictures, music from the piano, the poems and letters read out by two young actors immersed me in the experience of a solider serving on the front line and his family at home.

Great War, Unknown War, quite right I thought to myself. This was the C20th war that I really didn’t know much about. But when I got to understand it in more depth at the screening I thought otherwise. As a young audience member, I felt connected to a period that seem so long ago even though I had no clear connection with the Great War (since I am not British). However the power of film revealed feelings and emotions which text cannot replicate.

For me, the best part of the performance was the readings from letters written in that period. For a moment, I felt like I was transported back in time. Guided by actor’s voice, I felt as if I was the one writing the letters. The screening wasn’t just a history lesson but it was a sensory experience. Turner Sims’ renowned outstanding acoustics was definitely up to its standard. As a venue, it was fantastic and intimate for sure! The intimacy of the auditorium made the relationship between performers and audience very connected and approachable. It was a shame that I didn’t get to see more young people attending this event since the majority of the population that attended were of our parents and grandparents’ age.

1918, At Home, At War, Turner Sims, 22 February 2018

Silent Film Fortnight is part of the University of Southampton’s Great War: Unknown War series of events marking the lead-up to the anniversary of World War I’s ending in November 2018. The Fortnight is produced by Turner Sims in partnership with the University’s Film and Music departments and Faculty of Health Sciences, the British Film Institute, the Gateways to the First World War centre (funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council), City Eye and the Cavell Nurses’ Trust.

Arts Ambassadors is a paid opportunity, supported by the Careers and Employability Service’s Excel Southampton Internship programme, University of Southampton.

Published by

Arts at University of Southampton

Whether you’re a student, staff or from our wider community, there are plenty of exciting cultural opportunities for everyone through Arts at University of Southampton.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.