Kitty's Story Comes to Birmingham


The Fourth Session at Queensbridge. Conor, Richard, Rosie & Siobhan extend the story of Kitty as the young people listen 
In the next session the actors and the young people talked about their thoughts about Kitty since the last session, and again it was striking how the story of Kitty, Jimmy, the Sister and Bob had stayed with them, and how they had processed their own impressions and reactions into reflections that were both insightful and poignant. It is an important facet of Big Brum's Theatre in Education methodology that children and young people are engaged not only intellectually but also emotionally, so that real understanding is 'felt' not only learnt.
Richard explained that he had been working with archivists and historians and had found out more about Kitty's life. He told the young people that Kitty's journey from Etaples in France to Moseley in Birmingham took eight hours, and that she arrived exhausted at Highbury Hall in Moseley, where the hospital for convalescing soldiers looked so different from the filth and chaos of the Somme. Richard said we knew from VAD records that Kitty spent the rest of the war as a Sister at Highbury Hall, and the rest of her life living in South Birmingham. 

Highbury Hall, 2016. Photograph by Matt Hinks.



However, he also recounted that there had been an amazing find at Highbury Hall, as some plumbers were fixing old radiators and behind one of the radiators under a floor board was a letter in an envelope hidden behind a skirting board in the library. It had been written by Kitty and deliberately concealed. The young people were asked why she hid the letter and did she forget about it?  The young people were keen to read the letter and Richard read it out and passed the letter around the group, who handled it carefully and respectfully even though most of them were well aware that the letter was not a genuine historical record. The letter spoke of Kitty's despair at Highbury despite doing a job she knew she did well. She felt much older than her young years, she couldn't understand the need for the slaughter and the letter ended with 'ask the young what living means'. 

The young people discussed what it meant to be living not just surviving, how a war would change young lives and minds, and what they wanted from their futures. Richard ended the session with an invitation – Would the young people come to Highbury Hall and meet the archivists and the historians that were researching the time when the house was a VAD hospital? 



Matt Hinks