Venue: The Town House, Hamilton On January 27th, the photographic exhibition –‘ Testimony – The Heartstone Auschwitz Memorial Exhibition’ will be shown at Scotland’s Holocaust Memorial Day ceremonies in the presence of First Minister, Mr. Jack McConnell. This is the first presentation of the exhibition produced by Heartstone’s photographer, Nick Sidle, funded by the Scottish Executive under the ‘One Nation, Many Cultures’ campaign.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum in Poland now functions as a memorial to the one and a half million people who it is estimated died in the camp and many others like it which were built by the Nazis. It has been preserved as close as possible in the form in which it once operated and thus forms a highly moving and powerful memorial and one which this exhibition seeks to present in an honest, sensitive and thought-provoking way.
Whilst much is known about the Jews who were put to death, less is known about the many other groups including Gypsies, Poles, Russians, gays, lesbians and others who similarly died in the camps. The exhibition will present this aspect in addition to the more familiar themes as we approach the 60th Anniversary of the camp’s liberation on January 27th 2005.
The images are stark and intense, taking the audience on a visual journey through the world of those who had to live through the horrific experience. However, in keeping with Heartstone’s approach, the exhibition also seeks to present a positive and contemporary side to the issue – the organisation was invited by the organisers to document the 2004 ‘March of the Living’ which took place at the camp on April 19th which includes many of the remaining elderly survivors of the camp and their descendants. This was a powerful and uplifting ceremony, particularly because of the involvement of young people from all over the world, leaving all those who were part of the remarkable event with the overwhelming feeling of a future with hope. The exhibition includes testimonies of survivors of Auschwitz which have been gathered with the assistance of Yad Veshem, the London Jewish Cultural Centre and the Imperial War Museum.
The combination of these two elements side by side, the reality of the historical location and the life it embodied together with the inclusion of the contemporary photojournalism, makes this a unique exhibition. Four simultaneous ‘satellite’ exhibitions will be opening in locations across England.
Following the exhibition, a selected group of S. Lanarkshire schools, funded through South Lanarkshire Council, will be using the new Story Module which has been produced incorporating the photostory for project work. These schools will be the first in the country to undertake this work and their output will form the inspiration for new projects throughout the UK.
Heartstone is a non-profit organisation which aims to build greater contact, communication and understanding across different nationalities and cultures and challenge racism, xenophobia and intolerance.
It achieves its aims through the use of story – photodocumentary covering current day issues, fiction and historical themes. Heartstone’s photolibrary now comprises over 300,000 images covering stories from many parts of the world which have been gathered since the organisation’s founding in 1990. New stories are added to this library every month as the organisation’s photographer, Nick Sidle, is sent on assignments, often with ‘behind the scenes’ access. These stories are presented in exhibitions, events and publications to reach as wide an audience as possible. The core underlying themes of all Heartstone stories are:
1. to demonstrate the similarities of peoples, rather than their differences;
to demonstrate that there are many issues which require people to work together co-operatively putting aside differences;
to enable audiences to see the familiar in a new way from different perspectives.
The fictional story element of Heartstone is represented through the book, ‘The Heartstone Odyssey’ a children’s fantasy novel on the theme of racism. This was Heartstone’s first story and is still used throughout the UK as the core of Heartstone Projects working with children.
Most recently, Heartstone has added artefacts, paintings, engravings and press cuttings from the 1600s to the present day which provide an insight into some of the earliest contact between the UK and countries overseas, charting the views towards other cultures over the centuries and how these have changed.
Following on from Heartstone’s exhibitions and events, the organisation runs education projects to reach schools, colleges, youth groups and other settings which reach children and young people using Story Modules – Heartstone stories provided in CD-ROM format together with teachers’ notes and links to the National Curricululm. Here, the stories are used to raise discussion and debate and provide the basis of practical project work conducted usually over a period of 2 terms which can lead to long-term change in attitudes and behaviour. This work has been funded by the DfES.
Heartstone has been working from its base in Dingwall in Ross-shire since 1997. Since then, the organisation’s activities have expanded considerably with exhibitions having been held in locations such as the Brussels European Parliament, the South Bank in London, York Minster, Birmingham’s Great Hall and most recently, at the Scottish Parliament.
FURTHER INFORMATION ABOUT HEARTSTONE CAN BE FOUND AT OUR WEB-SITE AT www.heartstone.co.uk