An eventful trip back in time

Our journey back to the First World War has been unexpectedly eventful. When we embarked on this project, we had no idea we’d run into a pandemic and lockdown. All our face-to-face workshops were abruptly stopped and planned trips to museums and archives had to be shelved.

The parallels with the war, not to mention the 1918 flu pandemic, weren’t lost on us. The mental health of young people has been of great concern, with their education and exams up in the air. Friendships and families were under great strain, with young people trying to cope with not seeing enough of one group, and perhaps seeing too much of the other.

Our whole project switched to one that would be developed and delivered online. We met for workshops on Video conference calls, used WhatsApp and email to catch up and organise events and recorded interviews using our experience of making our lockdown radio series, Raising Teens.

I can’t tell you how proud I am of the students who have been involved in this project, of their enthusiasm, intelligence and ability to get involved and have a go. They’ve got involved with interviewing, recording, writing and presenting pieces for the podcast – all done remotely. Their work has been outstanding.

And a huge thank you has to go to the team at the Heritage Fund – firstly for funding our project – but also for their ongoing encouragement and helping us get to the finish line by moving our deadlines owing to Covid-19-related delays.

That thanks also extends to everyone who contributes to the National Lottery.

Project Photoshoot

Our final task for We Are Poppy was to create images for this website and for publicity on social media. We mustered our Make (Good) Trouble team, headed up by Lola, 19, taking on the role of Production Assistant and Stylist, and Lotti, 19, our Photographer.

We wanted to illustrate the conversation between the eras in photographs and chose an outdoor location (adding umbrellas to the kit list!). Stanmer Park in Brighton has a beautiful old church and graveyard and provided the perfect backdrop. Lola had two of our models, Amelie and Evie, in First World War costume, and three 21st Century models, Grace, Tiana and Lola,  in bright colours – jumpers, jackets, trainers, nail varnish – that give a real pop to the images.

Lotti said, “In the photographs, I wanted to challenge the viewer’s response by intertwining the two eras, creating images that make you question when they were taken and making sure we captured the personalities of the girls and the relationship between the 21st Century girl and her First World War counterpart.”

The images are to be used here on this website and on social media posts to promote the project. We took into account the fact that may want to use copy on the images, or captions if they were used on audio posts like the one below.

Photographer and model outside barn
Photographer Lotti focuses on model, Grace

Creating the sounds of WW1

Video and sound editor, Alvy Vincent, writes about helping to create the sounds of the 21st Century and the First World War to give us an immersive, rich listening experience for our Dear Poppy podcast.

I am a 22 year old freelance film maker who usually edits with visuals. One of the things I have learnt over the years is that SFX can really glue a video together and they are so important when setting a scene. When working on the ‘Poppy Project’ I absolutely loved making the audio soundscapes.

I loved the creativeness of listening to someone speak, imagining the settings that they would be in and then layering lots of SFX (sound effects) to create a world that the person speaking could sit in. This project was especially interesting as it focused around a specific time period. This meant that I was forced to think about what noises you might hear at that time. I used a lot of old aircraft soaring overhead and air raid sirens screeching but I also liked the SFX that are more generic but still created a soundscape that felt old fashioned, so I used things like church bells ringing in the distance, horses hooves on cobbled streets, dogs barking, wind blowing in the trees.

For the hospital scene [listen to the audio below], I was looking for the hospital sounds but my sound effects library was all modern-day sounds with phones going off and stuff.


I searched for the sound of a trolley in a hospital, a trolley passing, and that worked quite well. It wasn’t completely clear what it was, but it made you realise that it was inside a hospital. When the nurse starts speaking about the hospital ward, I wanted to have a sound for the injured men, so I recorded myself making groaning sounds and put it in the background. It seems ridiculous but it actually works really well, you hear the faint, quite subtle, not too obvious, sound in the background.

I look forward to working on more projects like this in the future.

Listen to the full podcast here:

Teaching creatively

Retired teacher, Jane Griffin, talks about her involvement in We Are Poppy and inspiring a new generation.

I was invited by Tayler Cresswell to take part in the Poppy project because of my experience as a teacher. I have been retired for 13 years so the chance to interact with young students again was a very exciting prospect for me. Tayler and I met up with Rosie Scott and a small group of girls at Hove Park School in Brighton.

This is what I told them:

My name is Jane. I am a teacher, an artist and a photographer.

I did my first teaching practice in this school when it was girls’ grammar school. I taught Art in a big comprehensive school for 10 years

I then moved to BHASVIC (local 6th Form college known to them) where I taught Art and Art History A level. I worked there for 18 years. Art History is a great way to learn History or even Herstory.

In 1996 I set up GCSE and A level Photography at Bhasvic. In those days there was no digital photography. The main building there was built in 1912-13 for Brighton and Hove Grammar School for Boys. In 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, it was commandeered as a military hospital.

There is plenty that was written about the men who were treated there but very little about the women who tended them.

I love to hear people’s stories.

I would like to help you imagine your Poppy stories.

The girls we met at Hove Park were mental health ambassadors, which is why they chose to join us. They knew a bit about the First World War and the effects of shell shock on the soldiers but they didn’t know what impact it had on women. This is not surprising as little research has been made in this area until recently.

We made a great start working at the school. The sessions were lively and the pupils delighted me with their ideas, enthusiasm, energy and wit.

When Covid-19 Lockdown was announced we had to pause, hoping this would be short-lived. We still hoped to visit the Imperial War Museum and The Keep at Sussex University for research.

It gradually became clear that we wouldn’t be able to continue face to face sessions with the pupils. I was gutted!

Although the Pandemic put a stop to our sessions in school, it did, however, make the parallels between mental health now and the situation in WW1 all the more pertinent.

We had to think of ways to work on the project remotely. We set a piece of work, similar to one I have used before, to send a letter to Poppy from someone living now. A reply would then be sent back. This certainly fired up the girls’ imaginations. The evidence of research in the letters produced is impressive as is the passion felt about feminist issues.

I have been so impressed by the quality of work made by the girls who chose to take part in the project. They were already well informed about women’s issues and mental health issues.

I have loved working with young people again. It has always been a joy to see how a teacher can give a germ of an idea to inspire her students and watch as they take that idea into realms she could never imagine.

Interview with therapist Denise Poynter about women and shellshock

In this interview, historian and therapist Denise Poynter talks to Daisy and Amelie about her search for elusive records about women who suffered from trauma and shellshock in World War One.

Denise’s work shines a light on women’s experiences of war trauma, long ignored by historians until fairly recently. Denise argues that women working near the front as nurses and VADs showed the same symptoms as men when it came to shellshock and trauma. Her discovery in the archives of a doctor’s note reading: “the report on her transfer was shell shock”, became the title of her thesis into the subject.


You can read Denise’s thesis here: The Report on her Transfer was Shell Shock.

Living with Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD)

We Are Poppy Producer, Saba, talks about living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder and how it helped her to better understand the trauma of the First World War.

I live with CPTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder is usually when an individual has experienced one traumatic event in their lives, whilst CPTSD is when you have experienced repeated traumatic experiences. PTSD is very common in soldiers and other people that have been involved in war. CPTSD can be a result of enduring repeated childhood neglect, physical, mental and domestic abuse. It can also affect people that have lived in war-torn countries for a length of time.

Small things today, when I am feeling low or sensitive, can trigger my CPTSD. Logic tells me it will pass and I can see what’s happening and I can see the effect it’s having but I can’t do anything to stop it. Then, all of a sudden, I’ll feel fine as if nothing happened. CPTSD and PTSD can be torture to live with. It takes over and you lose all rational sense.

I recently started feeling low within myself, I wasn’t getting much sleep, felt at odds and could tell I was being over-sensitive – I began to feel unheard and invisible. It made me think of the work we’ve been doing on Project Poppy – how our imagined character might cope in my position today. Would her plight and trauma experienced during World War One affect her today? Would loss of loved ones leave her feeing empty and at a loss herself? Would those past events trigger reactions in her present day? I know certain noises can stress me out because of all the screaming and shouting I experienced in the past. Would loud bangs or bursts of noise cause Poppy the same feeling of dread that it can conjure up in me?

Poppy made me think about all the children that suffered in World War One and other wars since then. How did they deal with their trauma and what long-term effect did it cause them, or even their children, their grandchildren and generations to come?

I consider myself lucky as I’ve had multiple forms of treatment, medication and care. I’ve tried various types of psychological therapies such as trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), group therapy, psychodynamic therapy which did wonders for learning how to have healthy relationships today. There are various forms of medication such as antidepressants, and other neurobehavioral medicines. I’ve tried Sonic Reset Therapy (SRT) – using the power of sound to reset your mind; reprogramming your memory. Some more holistic treatments are yoga, mindfulness, meditation – taking time out for self-care. With all these tools and knowledge I am able to monitor my symptoms. I know when things are starting to trigger, and I can put in place an action plan. One of the most important things is to reach out to someone; family, friend, a safe person you can share how you’re feeling and know you are not alone.

Working on the Poppy project highlighted two main things for me

1) we need to understand why people behave in the way that they do today, how their past can have a knock-on effect, rather than just assume they are bad, problematic, destructive, withdrawn, shy, nervous, emotional people – the list is endless.

2) Given circumstances today, especially for young people having been through months of lockdown, missing school, time with friends, regular routine, the stress of exam results, the worry about climate change or recent protests such as Black Lives Matter and other global events, we must prevent this manifesting within them and making way for trauma in adulthood.

If we can provide the support, tools and help at a young age, if we can give children hope and faith and let them know they are loved, cared for and listened to, then with any luck they won’t have to deal with trauma such as CPTSD/PTSD later on in life.

Listen to the interview about Trauma with trauma therapist Darren Abrahams for more information and insights into PTSD.

Interview with trauma therapist, Darren Abrahams

Trauma therapist Darren Abrahams talked to Arielle and Amelie this afternoon about how trauma affects refugees today through his work with Musicians Without Borders and The Human Hive.

In the interview, Darren discusses trauma and how it manifests itself, and its treatment, and shares his own family’s experiences as refugees during the First and Second World Wars.

Find out more about Darren Abrahams and his work with The Human Hive and Musicians Without Borders

Interview with Historian Lucy Noakes

Today we interviewed Lucy Noakes, Professor of Modern History from the University of Essex.  Lucy talks to Daisy about how women were affected by the Great War, and how their stories are still important today.

Lucy has written about “the relationship between politics and history, that led to my fascination with the past as a teenager, thus continues to inform my work today. The ways that we approach and understand past lives, and the ways that their stories are remembered, are central to contemporary politics. The work of historians today probably has a greater relevance and urgency than at any other time in the recent past, making it an important and exciting subject to study, research and teach.”

The interview is by Daisy from the East Sussex Youth Cabinet.

Find out more about Lucy Noakes here


Project Poppy… pandemic style

With VE Day being commemorated today, we thought it would be a good day to launch our online project about women living through the First World War. Women’s mental health was affected in both world wars, but little has been written about this.

Make (Good) Trouble CIC, supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, is working on We Are Poppy, a project exploring the mental health and wellbeing of women during the First World War as well as the perception of mental health in society at the time. We are working with a group of students from Hove Park School but since lockdown, we have had to move the project online. This means that we can invite everyone to get involved!

If you would like to follow the project, learning about the First World War and women’s role in it, we have created some online resources and tasks for you to follow.  We’ll be adding to it each week with things to read, watch and listen to as well as creative and research tasks.

Hove Park School logo designs for Project Poppy


Our focus is on interpreting the story of what happened to women during the First World War, about how the War affected their mental health (a story that hasn’t really been told), and to explore what that might mean to young people today. We want to find links between then and now. In this time of Covid-19 and lockdown, and of people volunteering to help those in need, there are also parallels to be explored.

There has been a huge focus on men and shell-shock in World War One but little information available about the effect on women’s mental health during that time. Our project aims to uncover the lives of women affected and create new narratives which will look at how mental health was perceived then, in comparison with today.

If you’d like to be part of this project, explore each section of this website where you’ll find information and creative tasks.

Thank you!

A door into history

Journalist Jan Edwards describes how an ordinary day of door-to-door fundraising led to his involvement as a volunteer with the We Are Poppy project. 

It was early January, and winter had firmly clasped its unrelenting, icy grip on Brighton and Hove, suffocating the distant memories of summer.

Shivering, my resolve to fundraise for homeless young people spurred me on. I started a new road, willing an answer for some warmth. I knocked, but there was no response. Maybe the next… “Hello! Sorry, I was cooking.” I rushed back. “Hi, I’m from Centrepoint.” “Ah, I know all about you!” says the woman, smiling. “Come in.”

While door-to-door fundraising can be discouraging, I relished meeting all sorts of strange, eccentric, but often wonderful people. At Centrepoint, I was yelled at, sworn at and chased down a garden path with a broom (only to be invited in for tea and an art lesson by the less cranky next-door-neighbour!).

Naturally, I was intrigued by this friendly woman who had provided respite from winter’s wrath. “You don’t need to say anything. I’ll sign up,” she said. I was bemused as even the most willing of donors usually take some persuasion. “I work for a social enterprise called Make (Good) Trouble, helping teenagers. I’m Daisy, the co-founder.”

Daisy explained that her company aims to challenge society’s narrative that young people are a nuisance. The media is often full of teenagers’ misdemeanours, so Make (Good) Trouble uses it to celebrate their achievements and improve mental health. Based on my passion for helping young people from my own experiences, I was eager to get involved.

As a teenager, I suffered from low self-esteem, unexplainable anger and bouts of anxiety and depression. This informed my behaviour: impulsiveness, drinking and trouble at home and school. In fact, I spent more time out of school than in! If only I’d had a means to express my feelings, to channel my complex coil of emotions.

Enterprises like Make (Good) Trouble are essential if other suffering teens are to make a difference in the world, inspiring creativity and motivation. As a journalist, I feel that nothing boosts self-confidence more than completing a project and seeing the results. “I would love to help,” I enthused, leaving with Daisy’s number and feeling warm inside and out.

I was delighted when Daisy scheduled a meeting to discuss my involvement with Make (Good) Trouble. She explained how revered the enterprise has become, securing a donation from Sussex Police. “We have Project Poppy coming up, which looks at women’s mental health in the First World War. It’ll be perfect for you.”

My Grandad is a Holocaust survivor, so I am familiar with the impact of war. A survivor of three camps, Grandad has harrowing memories which he seldom discusses. He was taken away from his mother as a child, and never saw her again. Nobody knows what became of her. A story lost.

Indeed, the impact of war on women is rarely considered. I realised that in learning about the First World War, the experiences of wives, of female nurses and doctors were not taught. With a Mum who won the NHS “Woman of the Year” award, I know how strong women are. It is imperative that the stories of these heroes be told.

Meeting with Tayler, Daisy’s sister and project leader, I was amazed at her research and determination to bring the project to fruition. “Mental health is a current issue”, Tayler said. “We want young people to get involved and to compare mental health then with what’s happening today. We want everyone involved in the project to help build a picture of a fictional woman, Poppy, who lived through the War and use media to flesh out what her experiences might have been, to bring her to life.”

This project is part of the First World War Centenary, a programme set up by the National Lottery Heritage Fund that aims to help people understand the war, uncover its stories and explore what it means to us today, creating a link between then and now. Project Poppy participants will research the subject and create a film and a blog detailing the process, plus a presentation for schools.

Students at Hove Park School are participating in the project and we met up with them before the schools were closed due to the coronavirus. I was struck by the young people there, their compassion and confidence as they created diagrams of influences on mental health, both in the First World War and now. “Have you ever had mental health issues?” one girl asked. “Most of us have.” I was confused:  happy with her openness, but sad at the prevalence of mental health issues she had expressed.

Walking home from the school that day, I was lost in thought. Isn’t it great how open young people are about mental health now, actively wanting to enact change? I smile. One thing’s certain: It’s incredible how interrupting someone’s cooking caused me to get involved with such an inspiring project.

Jan Edwards

We’re having to re-think Project Poppy due to the coronavirus lockdown. Make (Good) Trouble is now looking at ways to share the project online which will mean that more young people can get involved if they’re interested. Watch this space!