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A project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 2005

Surprisingly little research work has been carried out on ‘landscapes of peace’. Dedicated specifically to the pursuance of peace, these places are distinct from spaces of memory or remembrance. Landscapes of martial memory - cemeteries, preserved battlefields, ornamental displays - have been treated generically as spaces, parks or gardens of remembrance, but have rarely been critiqued as zones that espouse values of peace. This Arts and Humanities Research Council project begins to explore this missing dimension.

War memorials, by comparison, have become increasingly valued as loci of local, civic and national memory. Many imagined that the monumental period in the late 1920s should have served as 'an act of official closure'. Instead, the symbolic function of many war memorials has remained fluid and open. Indeed, many monuments to conflict have been described as inarticulate' needing to be regularly re-appraised so that their 'proper’ meaning might be constantly re-affirmed. Many commentators have argued that this dilemma has always existed. An editorial in the Birmingham Post in the 1920 insisted that the reason for public memorials had to be more clearly articulated so as 'to make sure the memory is a right memory' (Birmingham Post, 4 July, 1925).

In our present period of ‘commemorative orthodoxy’ and conspicuous compassion - marked by ever frequent one and two minute silences, mass floral displays, and widespread roadside shrines - it may seem odd that such conventional objects as monuments arouse such anxieties, that national icons of reverence and remembrance once seemed so complicated and disputatious. But this ignores the complex debates about the way in which memorials encapsulate and perpetuate memory. In cities especially, sites of memory are rarely arbitrary assignations: instead they compete with other emblems of collective memory and are often burdened with the task of re-membering for which they were never intended. (C.M.Boyer
The City of Collective Memory (Massachusetts 1996) p.32.

Such confusion is true too of the ambiguous role of peace and pacifism in the iconography of British remembrance. This is particularly true where the designated sites are unofficial, temporary, or take the form of interventions within the spatial status quo. Unless the state has been the champion, such sites of peace are often construed as the work of dissenters, protesters, or the politically disruptive.

The aims of this project
The project, begun and completed in 2005, had the following limited objectives:

To examine a selection of sites in southern England with the intention of making a photographic record of
selected ‘peace gardens’.

To explore local and regional archives to discover relevant documentation, press coverage and public reaction
to the chosen sites;

By so doing, create an initial typology for the ‘iconography of peace’ and devise an appropriate methodology for
the recording and appraisal of other sites;

The findings of this pilot project are available through this website. For creating and housing this site I acknowledge the support of the PLaCe Research Centre at the University of the West of England, Bristol, and the contribution of the web editor Ivan Eastwood and research associate Patricia Passes. Funding for the project was made possible by a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Paul Gough
September 2005
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