Immersive museum performances by LJMU drama students to uncover the 'Secret Life of a Wren'

With the Battle of the Atlantic 80th anniversary just weeks away, students from LJMU are collaborating once again with the Western Approaches Museum in Liverpool to help tell the untold stories of those involved in the events of the Second World War.

The immersive performances will allow 36 lucky audience members the chance to explore the underground bunker that was once a secret hub of activity, where the tactical and strategic planning of the war at sea would eventually ensure allied success in the Atlantic.

Those who served in the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) on Merseyside, affectionately referred to as Wrens, helped to develop the tactical manoeuvres at the HQ in Liverpool and are the focus of the performance.

Western Approaches Museum performances Monday 27 March

Creative producer and director, Sarah Hogarth, from LJMU’s Screen School, said: “The second-year drama students have been given a brief from Western Approaches Museum to create a site-specific performance in their secret WWII underground bunker at Derby House.

“The students have enjoyed bringing the fascinating stories of this building to life and can’t wait to showcase their promenade performance to audiences at three special performances taking place on Monday 27 March.”

Secret Life of a Wren’ will run on Monday 27 March 2023 with performance times at 2pm, 3.30pm and 5pm. Each performance will have 12 audience members and will last approximately 80 minutes.

The performance is free, but audience members will need to pay a museum entrance fee of £11.95 which will allow them access to the museum for a year post-event.

Tickets can be booked via the Western Approaches Museum website. 

Warm clothing is recommended as the bunker is underground with no heating and people are advised to dress appropriately for any forecast cold temperatures.

Performance synopsis

“Welcome to Derby House and your first day working for the Women’s Royal Naval Service. It’s time for you all to start learning what it means to be a Wren, however, it is very important that what you discover today mustn’t be spoken about outside of these walls.

“Pay attention to the tasks and jobs that our more experienced Wrens show you, as very soon you will be doing them yourselves. These include deciphering secret Morse code messages, playing war games to keep our convoys protected out there in the Atlantic, and of course the everyday jobs to keep Derby House running smoothly.

“You will uncover the secrets of this hidden away bunker, but you must all abide to the rules of the secrecy act. Everyone must do their part to help the war effort, so we are very glad to see you here today. Please note that your contributions as a Wren will be very much appreciated to help bring the Battle of Atlantic to an end.”

Other ways that LJMU will mark the Battle of the Atlantic 80th anniversary

Drama students have already performed an adapted play Blowing a Raspberry at Hitler: A story of WATU, the WRNS and the War at Sea, based in part on Simon Parkin’s book A Game of Birds and Wolves to an audience earlier this year. It is anticipated that a re-worked version of the production will be performed for the wider public during the main commemorative events taking place across the city in May.

As part of the city’s programme of events, the Centre for Port and Maritime History will host a one-day conference on Saturday 20 May, in association with the Battle of the Atlantic Memorial Trust, considering the history and legacies of the battle 80 years on.

Experts from the LJMU Maritime Centre are scoping out an interactive display opportunity with the Western Approaches Museum and other opportunities to celebrate LJMU’s maritime links throughout 2023.

LJMU 200 years of history and heritage – looking back and navigating the future

LJMU has its own unique ties with the maritime history of Liverpool. In 1852 it opened its Nautical School and College, reflecting Liverpool’s status in the 19th century as one of the world’s leading ports.

Since then, LJMU has developed its education and research offer dedicated to the maritime sector, through specialised courses offered at the Faculty of Engineering and Technology, which also houses the LJMU Maritime Centre, connecting industry regionally and internationally to plug future skills gaps.

Maritime ties will be celebrated this year as LJMU marks its own milestone anniversary. Celebrating our bicentenary, always ahead of our time.


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