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History scholars from Nottingham Trent University support Nottingham Playhouse's production of Kindertransport

Professor Bill Niven and PhD candidate Amy Williams delivered a pre-show talk as well as contributing historical context to the programme.

Amy Williams at Nottingham Playhouse

History scholars Professor Bill Niven and PhD candidate Amy Williams have recently supported Nottingham Playhouse’s production of Kindertransport due to their expertise in this period of history. Professor Bill Niven is the course leader of our MA in Holocaust and Genocide (by research) and an expert in contemporary German history. Amy Williams is currently working towards a PhD funded by the AHRC Midlands4Cities Doctoral Training Partnership, which focuses on national and international perspectives of the Kindertransport throughout time.

Nottingham Playhouse have revived Diane Samuel’s play Kindertransport this year to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Kindertransport, as well as to draw links between history and the current refugee crisis taking place across the world. The play is set in both the 1930s and the 1980s, illustrating the long term effects of the experience on the Kindertransport as they reach adulthood. Although not a true story, the play is based upon many real stories of survivors.

Amy Williams contributed towards the Playhouse’s audience programme with an educational and captivating history of the Kindertransports, providing context to the play. She discussed how it was organised and financed, where exactly the children moved to and what happened to them during and after the war. She also wrote briefly about the complexities of Britain’s memory of the Kindertransport in another piece, a discussion she went on to expand in her pre-show talk.

During the pre-show talk, both Bill and Amy discussed ways in which memory of the Kindertransport differs between Britain and Germany. Britain was a host nation for many children and teenagers, and so a national memory has developed around welcoming the refugees as members of British society, as opposed to remembering the hardships the Kinder faced on their journeys.

Amy commented on the play’s depiction of those involved: “Diane Samuels’ play Kindertransport is one of the most radical representations of the Kindertransports because it discusses loss, separation and how difficult it was to adjust to a new way of life without guidance from parents. Yet it goes further as it also reflects upon how this exile fractured family relationships and how difficult it was to reconnect with loved ones”.

Amy has also been able to house her exhibition ‘Re-thinking the story of the Kindertransports: Testimony, Artefacts, Identity’ in the theatre for the duration of the play. The exhibition was created during Amy’s placement at the National Holocaust Centre and Museum and is part of a wider digital exhibition, entitled ‘Legacies’, which was primarily created by Professor Niven and is permanently on display at the centre. The exhibition, funded by the AHRC Midlands4Cities Doctoral Training Partnership, explores the history, memory and representation of the transports. It also addresses national and transnational narratives, including a section about local and regional history with a particular emphasis on Nottinghamshire.

Published on 17 October 2018
  • Subject area: English, history and philosophy
  • Category: Culture; Research; School of Arts and Humanities