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Armistice Day 2014 - Parliament Buildings Wellington.

Posted 17/11/2014

The British Council and the Goethe-Institut, the cultural agencies of Britain and Germany, joined for a special evening at the Grand Hall at Parliament.  The main feature of the event was a theatre performance by the Voice Arts Trust titled “Women and WW1 – He Aha Te Utu – the true cost”.  I was very honoured for The Three Uncles to be invited by the British Council to be part of the evening.

After an hour or so of mingling and chatting with lots of interesting people it was time for some short speeches by the three hosts.  The British High Commissioner Mr Jonathan Sinclair spoke of the opportunity the centenary gives to bring us together more closely as modern partners and allies and to ensure that the lessons learnt – the need to resolve conflict and the debt we owe to those who sacrificed – will not be forgotten.  The German Ambassador Dr Anne-Marie Schleich spoke not only of the battlefield casualties but particularly mentioned the terrible price paid by those who lived in conditions of famine and fear. MP Hon Annette King reminded the audience that New Zealand had one of the highest casualty and death rates per capita of any country.  All three hosts spoke of the close and warm relationship the three countries enjoy. 

Before it was my turn to speak, I wished that my Grandad, Michael Cole, was still alive because he spoke fluent German and he could have helped me with some phrases to say.  I had to settle for saying Guten Abend at the beginning and Danke Shoen at the end. I spoke of how war is a phenomenon that happens to families like the Cole family. I had also found out that in modern international peace processes women represent just 2.4% of the chief mediators. So I believe we have more work to do in that area.

Then it was time for the main feature of the evening.  The theatre performance by the women from the Voice Arts Trust was completely mesmerising.  I learned a lot from them during the performance and there were more than a few audience members reaching for their tissues.  A young man articulated to me afterwards, “They reached into my heart”.   The performance was followed by a Q&A session with many thoughtful questions asked. 

It was the first time that women’s role during WW1 had been the specific focus of Armistice Day parliamentary commemorations in New Zealand.  I was privileged to attend with my mother and my daughter, two of the most remarkable women I know. Voice Arts TrustVoice Arts Trust