Families are set to go on strike this half-term as Beamish Museum marks the centenary of a protest carried out by starving schoolchildren from Wearside.
The Washington Children’s Strike will be commemorated from Saturday until Sunday, February 26, when visitors can join a march through the museum and take part in a host of hands-on activities.
In 1917, 1,000 miners’ children in Usworth and Washington went on strike to demand free school meals.
Families were going hungry, struggling with reduced shifts for miners, food shortages and rocketing prices during the First World War.
Enough was enough and the children, encouraged by their fathers, went on strike from school for the right to have free meals.
They won their fight after only two days and returned to school where they were fed soup.
During February half-term, visitors can mark the centenary of the strike by joining a march from The Pit Village to The Town, making flags to wave, singing protest songs, sampling poor man’s soup and seeing displays from Wessington U3A War Memorials Project, Washington History Group and SAFC Museum.
They can make parcels and postcards for soldiers on the Front, sign up for the Army and children can try on uniform at the recruitment station, and discover the effect of the war on the Co-op’s supplies.
Gemma Stevenson, community events officer at Beamish, said: “We’re all looking forward to this exciting event, commemorating the Washington Children’s Strike and celebrating the history and heritage of the area.
“There will be lots of activities for people to get involved in – they’ll be able to strike for their soup, make flags to wave on the march and sing along with protest songs.”
Beamish has been working with eight schools in Washington and Sunderland to explore the Children’s Strike.
Pupils have taken part in marches at the museum and learned a song, No School for Us Today Sir!, written by Beamish’s Bill Elliott, a renowned folk performer.
Simon Woolley, head of learning at Beamish, said: “The children have truly lived the experience.
“They have explored old maps, newspaper reports, photographs and artefacts, they have sung strike songs, made banners, interviewed miners and demonstrated on The Town street at the museum.”
Washington Children’s Strike activities are included in admission and are free to Beamish Unlimited Pass holders, as with all daytime events.
Beamish Museum is open throughout February half term from 10am to 4pm.