Throughout the year, members of the Chorley and District Boys Dance Company (the ‘Chorley Boys’) have been developing their understanding of what inspired the men of 1914 to sign-up as part of General Kitchener’s New Army initiative, and form the Chorley Pals.
By immersing themselves in the real stories of local soldiers and experiencing at first-hand some recreations of army life - such as drills and bayonet training - the young people managed to create a visually powerful 15-minute piece of contemporary dance.
Chorley Boys dancer, Stephen Mercer, said: “It was important to us that our portrayal of these brave men was sensitive, well researched and authentic.
“We wanted to explore the heritage of our local area through the piece as well as using dance, music and film to tell their story.
“It is said that the men of Chorley retained their identity and close connection to their hometown throughout their war experience - being proud to be called ‘The Chorley Pals’.
“This is much like we are; proud to be part of The Chorley Boys.”
The project, called ‘The Journey of a Lancashire Soldier’, was supported by Ludus Dance choreographers and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The choreography is designed to be performed live, alongside a five-minute film, which was also produced by the group with filmmaker Michael Wray, with an original score by Lee Affen.
The Chorley Boys, who are based at St Michael’s CE High School, previewed their work in development at the Lancashire Youth Dance Festival in May, followed by full live performances at the UK Coaching Awards in Manchester and the Museum of Lancashire in December.
The idea of the Pals Battalions was to get friends, colleagues, neighbours and community groups to sign-up together - knowing that they were amongst friends.
The boys took inspiration from this to create a football section within their piece. They imagined being a group of lads, who meet up regularly for a game of football and who decide to all sign-up together.
The Chorley Pals was to become part of the Accrington Pals Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment.
Six months after the Pals left for war, they would be at the frontline in the opening attack of the Battle of the Somme. This battle was one of the worst in the history of the British Army and many of the original Pals were killed, wounded or bore psychological scars.
Like the soldiers it memorialises, the ‘Journey of a Lancashire Soldier’ project will leave a long-term legacy.
The short film and some accompanying teaching materials will be made available to every school in Lancashire, to help teaching staff deliver movement-based classes on the topic.
There are also hopes of a further live public performance, to coincide with Somme centenary commemorations planned by the Chorley Pals Memorial Trust this year.