"'We're not men now': Design as Pathos at the Lord Roberts Memorial Workshops"

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Abstract

Although founded in 1899 as a scheme for the employment of disabled veterans and re-named the Soldiers and Sailors’ Help Society in 1902 the Lord Roberts Memorial Workshops (LRMW) were not officially constituted until the First World War had fully commenced. Taking their name from Lord Roberts, one of the most revered military figures of the Victorian era who had died just as the war began, its founder, the philanthropist, Mary Jane Brabazon, the Countess of Meath, sought to establish an enterprise that was not a customary charity but rather a business giving secure work to combatants maimed in conflict. Officially launched in the spring of 1915 by the end of the war it was estimated that the enterprise had provided employment for thousands of men, had production facilities and retail premises throughout Britain and was employing celebrity designers. Of the many similar ventures founded before, during and after the First World War that used craft to ameliorate shocking levels of poverty and destitution amongst demobilised veterans, the LRMW enjoyed perhaps the greatest popularity and longevity. Although they made a wide range of domestic and utilitarian products the workshops were established with the ‘intention of capturing the German toy trade.’ The men in the Workshops were often referred to as ‘childlike’ and attitudes to, and popular patronage of, the workshops largely pivoted on the equation of design and pathos as toys became a site were feelings of pity, guilt, shame and fear at the sight of the disaffected and disabled could be assuaged through the innocuous and innocent act of consumption. The culture of infantilisation promoted in the LRMW was far from lost on the men in the workshops where tensions often erupted in labour disputes and strikes. Working with previously undocumented archive material this paper seeks to interrogate the anxieties that arose around modern craft, concepts of conventional masculinity and the material culture of conflict in early twentieth century Britain by looking in detail at surviving objects and images.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 14 Sep 2022
EventCrafting Identities. Handicraft Programmes in Times of War, Genocide and their Aftermaths, c.1890-1950 - Holocaust Centre North, University of Huddersfield, Huddersfieldf, United Kingdom
Duration: 13 Sep 202214 Sep 2022
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/crafting-identities-handicraft-programmes-tickets-287753457337

Conference

ConferenceCrafting Identities. Handicraft Programmes in Times of War, Genocide and their Aftermaths, c.1890-1950
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CityHuddersfieldf
Period13/09/2214/09/22
Internet address

Keywords

  • War; craft; disability; masculinity; design history

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