Conference "Unheard Voices: British, Anzac and Turkish Poetry of the Gallipoli Campaign" 20th June 2017, Leeds City Museum.
We had a very fruitful one-day conference with brilliant contributions from prominent academics from the UK and Turkey.
Our event started off with Prof John Whale (University of Leeds) introducing our first keynote speaker, Dr Jane Potter (Oxford Brooks University). Dr Potter’s address provided an excellent opening for the event as it gave a comprehensive overall picture of Gallipoli poetry by analysing poems by a number of poets such as Rupert Brooke, Nowell Oxland, Will Leslie and Patrick Shaw Stewart. Dr Potter’s paper also made connections between how the campaign was mythologised with references to Troy and the actual experiences these soldier poets shared.
In the first panel of the conference, Lucy Moore (Leeds Museums and Galleries) introduced two notable academics from Turkey, Dr Azer Banu Kemaloglu (Canakkale 18 Mart University) and Dr Mehmet Ali Celikel (Pamukkale University). Dr Kemaloglu’s paper was a valuable contribution tracing the signs of how Rupert Brooke was depicted and mythologised in fictional works dedicated to the Gallipoli campaign. As the only study investigating the echoes of the campaign in novels, Dr Kemaloglu’s presentation was one of the major pieces that completed the picture our conference was aiming to draw. Dr Celikel’s study was greatly in line with the title of the conference.
In his presentation, he shared the findings of a Turkish government funded research project (involving Dr Kemaloglu as well) on the poems discovered in the diaries of lay soldiers from Australia and New Zealand. Dr Celikel’s paper also underlined similarities between poems from the Turkish side and Anzac soldiers.
In the second panel, Dr Berkan Ulu (University of Leeds) introduced two more Turkish scholars, Dr Burcin Cakır (Glasgow Caledonian University) and Ozge Bostanbas (University of Northumbria). A PhD candidate working on the literary responses from the two sides of the conflict, Ozge Bostanbas argued how the “enemy” image had been used as a “catalyst” in the poems from the Turkish side. Her presentation also successfully showed how Islamist and Panturkist ideas were manipulated in Turkish literature of the time. In her presentation, Dr Cakır shared the results of another research project on how the legacy of Gallipoli has been misrepresented and exploited in Turkish education system from the 1930s to the present. Giving examples from Turkish textbooks for primary and secondary schools, her presentation showed that there is still a lot to be done concerning the teaching of the Gallipoli Campaign to younger generations.
The final panel of our conference was chaired by Prof Alison Fell (University of Leeds), who introduced Dr Jenny Macleod (University of Hull). With examples from Australia, England, Ireland and Turkey, Dr Macleod’s speech presented how the Gallipoli Campaign has been commemorated around the world to this day. Dr Macleod’s address was an engaging presentation bringing up questions about memory, remembering and forgetting as well as a seemly end to the conference.
After the conference, we gave a reception in the Broderick Hall, a stimulating circular hall in the historic Leeds City Museum. At the reception, we were lured by Dr James Hodkinson’s exhibition entitled “Following Islam through German History, 1770-1918. The Relevance for Contemporary Britain." The exhibition underlined the connection between Germany and the Ottoman Empire prior to the World War I and explored the role religion played in political encounters between Germany and Ottoman Empire.
The evening event was chaired by Prof Whale who introduced Prof Fell, Dr Hibbitt, Dr Ulu, and, Ian McMillan, the renowned poet and broadcaster. We started by presenting some of the findings of our research, a selection of poems in English and Turkish written by poets and lay soldiers who served in Gallipoli, and finally poems written by participants who took part in the poetry workshops throughout the project. This was followed by a discussion of these poems by the panel members. The evening event came to an end with Ian McMillan reading from his own work and a fascinating creative writing activity in which all our guests in the hall participated.
We hope that you have all enjoyed our conference and evening event. Once again, we would like to thank you all for joining and supporting us in a thought-provoking conference and poetry evening culminating literature, history and memory.