How do you commemorate the broad and complex histories of a military training camp, in the context of a neo classical stately home and park?

The Machine Gun Corps was a military base set up in Belton’s Parkland in 1915, where at any time 25,000 men lived and trained in the new military technological weaponry of the time. Initially a tented town, then a pre-fabricated settlement, the community had its own chapels, cinema, and a hospital for those who returned wounded from fighting during the first World War.

Artists Belén Cerezo and Rebecca Lee spent time at Belton during the summer of 2015, attending and observing the programme of events ‘Remembering Belton’ which focussed on the MGC. These included a re-enactment event, archival research and an archaeological dig.

In contrast with traditional and official commemorations, this project uses an exploratory and reflective approach, which sets a new context. We see how this moment in time is remembered by different groups in the present day.

Rehearsing Memory, Belton 2015 is composed of four parts and was presented across spaces in the house and the parkland.

Through these, the artists present an alternative narrative to historical accounts and suggests that memory is an ongoing and active process.

The artists worked with the volunteer research group to re-film a group photograph of soldiers, using a micro camera. This transforms a group portrait – we see the soldiers faces and hands in new detail, as we stare into their eyes facing the harsh sun.

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A walk is a reflection on remembering and place. Starting at the house, you are taken to the site of the camp, listening in to voices and viewpoints of members of Belton’s community, talking to the artists. Listen here: (link)

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Distributed in local villages in the vicinity of Belton, a printed artwork brings together aerial views of the Park and personal objects belonging to the families of the machine gunners.

The film, between a documentary and an essay, reflects on the stories of the Machine Gun Corps in the Park along with ideas of memory, as well as the process of making the film.

Visit Rehearsing Memory on the National Trust Website.

Image: Rebecca Lee and Belén Cerezo

Image: Rebecca Lee and Belén Cerezo

Exhibition Design & print J+O Studio

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