The WOW Zone is Wythenshawe Community Housing Group’s learning centre based at the Woodhouse Park Lifestyle Centre, in Wythenshawe, Manchester. Innovative learning programmes are delivered on site where Young People use the latest technology as a platform to enhance their learning and thrive in a positive environment. The WOW Zone provides opportunities for personal, social, educational and emotional development of local children and Young People.

The WOW Zone was awarded £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and a further £5,000 from Archives+ in Manchester to deliver a unique project which enabled 11-19 year olds to discover through poetry what life in the trenches during World War 1 would have been like.

The idea was initially prompted last summer by a suggestion by Wythenshawe’s late MP, Paul Goggins, who thought it would be great for Young People in Wythenshawe to have the opportunity to reflect on this year’s WW1 centenary. 

Andy Jordan, Manager of the WOW Zone, explains;

“Our Young People came up with the idea of looking at Wilfred Owen’s powerful poetry that tells the stark reality of life in the trenches.  There is a strong local connection as Wilfred Owen was commissioned into the Manchester Regiment. As the project evolved, we discovered that Young People were not only fascinated by the events of 100 years ago but they could express their thoughts in powerful, creative ways.”

As a result of the project, the 15 Young People participated in a whole variety of learning experiences including visits to local war graves, the Imperial War Museum, the National Football Museum and the archives at Central Library in Manchester. They were then inspired by Corporal Stuart Cook who told the story of the war from the perspective of Private Tommy Atkins. A poetry workshop involved Feelgood Theatre Company and the poet Ben Mellor visiting the WOW Zone.

The Young People were then encouraged to respond creatively through art, poetry and animated film, examples of which can be seen here.

After a visit to see War Horse at the Lowry Centre, the project culminated in a Community Showcase Event at the Woodhouse Park Lifestyle Centre on 4th August, 100 years to the day since the start of the war. In the autumn, Manchester Central Library will host a public exhibition of the work, which will then go on a tour of community centres across Wythenshawe.