At the world famous Long Room at Lords Cricket Ground, to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, Westminster Archives today (in conjunction with the Ministry of Drama Theatre Group and Marylebone Cricket Club) held a play titled “A Candle for Major Booth”. This event is one of a number of Westminster City Council commemorative events that will take place throughout 2016.
The play told the story of Second Lieutenant "Major" William Booth, who was one of the 20,000 British soldiers killed on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916. Major Booth was also a Yorkshire and England all-rounder, who represented MCC on their 1913 to 1914 tour of South Africa.
The event was attended by Cllr Rachel Robathan, Cabinet Member for Adults and Public Health, the Lord Mayor of Westminster Cllr Steve Summers, and school pupils from 9 primary school across Westminster. After the performance, the school children worked with actors from Ministry of Drama to prepare their own plays on Major Booth’s life. The pupils will be sharing their plays with the rest of their school at assemblies on 1 July 2016 to mark the centenary anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.
Cllr Rachael Robathan, Armed Forces Champion for Westminster, said: “Westminster City Council is incredibly proud of our armed forces communities and we do everything we can to support veterans, armed forces personnel and their families. Consequently, we are delighted the next generation of school children will learn about this historic event in our nation’s history through the story of Major Booth. Few battles represent the grim reality of conflict and the epic loss of life seen in the First World War like the Battle of the Somme, and I want to thank Marylebone Cricket Club and Lords Cricket Ground in helping us to commemorate the sacrifice of the brave soldiers who fought for our country.”
Derek Brewer, Chief Executive of Marylebone Cricket Club, said: “MCC has a long association with the armed forces and we were very pleased to host this event in the Long Room, as a mark of respect for our veterans, their families and, of course, Major William Booth. Since 2012, we have been working very closely with local schools as part of our community engagement programme, and to see so many pupils in the Long Room learning about Major Booth’s story and its wider historical context was very pleasing.”
Peter Daniel, Education and Interpretation Officer at Westminster Archives, said: "Westminster Archives have been able to use Major Booth's story to help children gain an insight into the inequalities that existed before WW1, and how the huge sacrifices made in that war brought about a desire for change. This has allowed local schools to address British values, a new aspect of the curriculum, through understanding how important equality is to our way of life."
Gary Faulkner, Director of MOD Theatre Company, said: "We are delighted to be involved in this project, and for the opportunity to work with Westminster school pupils in such a prestigious venue as the Long Room at Lord's which is steeped in history."