5,000 Birmingham children honour the 112 UK Holocaust survivors through commemorative arts project

As part of the one-year anniversary of Echo Eternal – a commemorative arts, media and civic engagement project – and to coincide with Holocaust Memorial Day, Samantha Wootton, year 10 at City Academy Birmingham, had the privilege of meeting Dr Agnes Kaposi, one of 112 UK Holocaust survivors, whom she played in her school’s artistic response to Agnes’ moving testimony.

Marking the occasion at Birmingham Town Hall, the creator of the Echo Eternal project, Adrian Packer CBE, CEO of CORE Education Trust, received the Prime Minister’s Points of Light award for his work on Holocaust Education. All 12 schools taking part performed in the special Echo Eternal concert. Specially commissioned music by Julian Lloyd Webber and the Birmingham Conservatoire made its debut, with the students performing their “echoes” alongside these professional musicians.

Broadcaster Natasha Kaplinsky interviewed 112 Holocaust survivors for the programme and 5,000 students from across a dozen Birmingham schools have worked with artists throughout the year to create their response to these powerful testimonies: eternal echoes. The concert saw the culmination of all their hard work.

Conceived and developed by CORE Education Trust in partnership with the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation (UKHMF), the project has enabled the students to spend at least 10 days engaging with a testimony from one of the survivors to create their own echoes of the stories – thereby using art to bring events of huge historical importance to life.

The students have also made civic pledges that aim to make a positive societal change, inspired by the Great Get Together initiative in memory of Jo Cox. Each of the 12 schools has formed a civic alliance with another Echo Eternal school to deliver on their pledges.

Student pledges from this year include:

  • Supporting inter-generational projects
  • Fundraising for local parks
  • Raising awareness of environmental issues
  • Highlighting mental health issues with young adults
  • Developing ideas to reduce homelessness in the city

Samantha Wootton, year 10 at City Academy Birmingham, said:

“Having a conversation with Agnes was unbelievably inspiring. She was so positive, and it helped me to feel positive too which surprised me. It was so real, not like seeing a film, not edited, it really brought home her experiences. She was so sensitive in describing her story, knowing that I’m young. She is a wonderful woman, I’ll never forget meeting her and how it made me feel. I hope others get the same opportunity to meet survivors and learn about what happened to them in the Holocaust.”

Adrian Packer CBE, CEO of CORE Education Trust and Founder of Echo Eternal said:

“Celebrating the first year of Echo Eternal is a proud moment for everyone at CORE Education Trust. Receiving a Points of Light award from the Prime Minister is a testament to everyone’s hard work in getting us to this point. At the project’s heart it’s the children who are doing the most wonderful things. It has been magical to see all the schools come together.

“Our schools live and breathe collaboration, and we look for opportunities to encourage and help our students to look outwards and engage creatively with the rich diversity of our communities.

“Echo Eternal allows us to pay tribute to the survivors’ testimonies and champion civic engagement. We have created ‘echoes’ to spark light, to create new life, and new impulses. These individual sparks of light have sought and attracted other sparks to form a collective force for good – to inspire civic action and to promote a happier, healthier, safer world. I hope the students hold on to these truths, they are gifts which we will all cherish.

“It’s fantastic to see the impact the programme has already had on the 12 schools taking part.  Over the next couple of years, even more students will have the opportunity to engage with Echo Eternal, and by 2022, we anticipate that around 15,000 children, young people and their families will have been part of this movement – both listening to the echoes from the past and, in turn, creating their own echoes for the future.”

Julian Lloyd Webber, Principal of Royal Birmingham Conservatoire said:
“Echo Eternal is one of the most moving projects I have been involved with at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Incredibly talented young musicians have come together to create an occasion which promises to remain in the mind forever.” 

Natasha Kaplinsky said:

“There is no more powerful way to learn about the horrors of the Holocaust and its lessons for today than to hear the experiences of those who survived. The testimonies I had the privilege of recording will have a permanent home in the new national memorial and education centre being built next to Parliament. But it is essential that we also ensure these valuable resources reach people across the country. That is why I am so pleased to see their use in this project in Birmingham.”

Each school has worked with a film-maker to make a short film, creating a permanent record of their artistic response and capturing their pledges. These can be viewed here http://echoeternal.uk/#schools

All six of Core Education Trust’s academies took part in the programme, along with a further six Birmingham schools. Over the next two years, a further six schools from the West Midlands will join the programme, before Echo Eternal is launched in London schools in 2021, ahead of the new national memorial being built in the gardens of Parliament in 2022.

Find out more about CORE Education Trust here: http://www.core-education.co.uk/

Find out more about Points of Light here: https://www.pointsoflight.gov.uk/about-points-of-light/