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HMS Unicorn announced as a partner for Imperial War Museums’ £2.5m art commissioning programme

The Unicorn Preservation Society is part of the IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund, a national partnership programme of over 20 artist commissions inspired by the heritage of conflict.

Nine new art commissions that tackle subjects ranging from rebuilding after the Second World War to reconciliation in the aftermath of the Troubles in Northern Ireland will each receive £20,000 from Imperial War Museums’ (IWM) art commissioning programme. Funded with a share of the royalties from Peter Jackson’s critically acclaimed film They Shall Not Grow Old, the new commissions take various forms including original brass band compositions, large scale street art and film installations.
The programme continues the vision and reach of 14-18 NOW, the official UK arts programme for the First World War centenary, by reinvesting a share of royalties from Peter Jackson’s film – a centrepiece of IWM and 14-18 NOW’s centenary commemorations.
Today, IWM is pleased to reveal details of the nine new partners selected to join this ambitious art commissioning programme, building on over 100 years of contemporary art commissioning by the museum.
The nine organisations are members of IWM’s War and Conflict Subject Specialist Network (WCSSN) and hail from across all four nations of the UK. They include Bentley Priory Museum in Stanmore, The Box in Plymouth, Brickworks Museum in Burlesdon, Ffotogallery in Cardiff, Freedom Festival Arts Trust in Hull, The Harris Museum in Preston, Nerve Centre in Derry-Londonderry, Sweet Patootee Arts based in London, and The Unicorn Preservation Society in Dundee.
For the Unicorn Preservation Society, Composer Michael Betteridge has been commissioned to create a musical work for performance on board HMS Unicorn, inspired by the history of the vessel as a Royal Naval Reserve and Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve training ship, and will see the restoration of instruments from Unicorn’s own collection for use in the performance which were used by men in active service in World War One. The piece for brass ensemble will involve collaboration with schools and Dundee’s own Dundee Instrumental Band and will be performed on board Unicorn in 2024 as part of the ship’s celebrations to mark 200 years since Unicorn was launched in 1824.

Matthew Bellhouse Moran, Museum Director for The Unicorn Preservation Society, says “Unicorn is one of the most important ships in the world and so we’re delighted at this opportunity to find new ways to share the ship’s story with our communities in Dundee through music and performance.”

 Michael Betteridge, Composer, says:
To create a new piece of music inspired by such an important and fascinating ship is a wonderful thing, but to incorporate historical instruments - with their own story - into such a work is such a privilege as a composer. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to bring to life the history of HMS Unicorn through the powerful sounds of brass.”

 First launched in 1824, HMS Unicorn is the third oldest ship afloat in the world and has been under the care of the Unicorn Preservation Society since 1968. Scotland’s only preserved warship and the oldest ship in Scotland, the Unicorn Preservation Society is working to protect and preserve HMS Unicorn for future generations to enjoy.

Rebecca Newell, Head of Art for Imperial War Museums says, "The IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy fund builds on Imperial War Museums’ rich and longstanding history of commissioning art. One year into this programme, we are delighted by the diversity of exceptional arts experiences that have been created and shared with audiences. We look forward to expanding this work with artists, organisations and communities across the UK, continuing to highlight stories of conflict in engaging and creative ways.”

The IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund commissions forge new opportunities for artistic engagement and bring art to audiences in new and relevant ways. The IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund commissions will go on public display across the UK between 2023 and 2025. For further information about the IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund, please visit the IWM website.

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