A free exhibition featuring artwork from veterans and the Armed Forces community officially opened to the public at the weekend.

Visitors to Explore Life Through Soldiers’ Eyes, at Bishop Auckland Town Hall, can now explore historical pieces from the DLI Collection alongside artwork, photography, sculptures and oral, visual and written work from service men, women and their families, many of them from County Durham.

Durham County Council’s community arts team has worked with over 100 members of the Armed Forces community over the previous 10 months, using art and creativity to support their mental health and wellbeing.

The exhibition, which runs until Saturday 20 November, will take audiences on a journey from the First World War to present-day life in the Armed Forces in times of peace, conflict, repatriation and rehabilitation.

Offering a snapshot into the personal experiences of those serving, as well as the families left at home, it aims to challenges visitors as to how they think about the Armed Forces and raise awareness of veterans and service personnel in the community.

A documentary film, commissioned as part of the project, can also be seen during the exhibition. Also available online, the film shows creative aspects of the project as well as offering a moving and humbling insight into the lives of veterans and their families.

The exhibition was officially opened by Sue Snowdon, Lord-Lieutenant of County Durham. Mrs Snowdon said: “It is an honour to have been able to open such a fantastic exhibition here at Bishop Auckland Town Hall.

“It is wonderful that so many veterans, forces personnel and family members have been involved in Through Soldiers’ Eyes. It offers us a poignant insight into their lives through a range of different experiences and I would like to pay tribute to everyone involved in making this happen.”

Alongside the exhibition, visitors can also take part in an interactive digital experience, from Saturday 23 October, to explore life on the Western Front through the eyes of DLI soldiers. Other activity includes theatre performances for primary school pupils to explore the theme of Remembrance, while activities and talks are also being held with some of the artists involved in the project.

Two smaller exhibitions will also take place at Seaham Town Hall and Stanley Civic Centre around Remembrance weekend.

Through Soldiers’ Eyes is an ongoing project jointly funded by Durham County Council, the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust, County Durham Community Foundation, Bishop Auckland Town Council and Bishop Auckland and Shildon AAP.

Cllr Paul Sexton, Durham County Council’s Armed Forces Champion, said: “Our forces personnel and their families make such an invaluable contribution to our communities and our society. I’m delighted that Through Soldiers’ Eyes can offer us all more insight into their lives and the work they do to support us.

“We are so grateful to all of the veterans, servicemen and women and their families who have taken part in the project across County Durham. The exhibition would not be here if it wasn’t for their incredible contribution and support and it has been very rewarding to engage with so many of our wonderful Armed Forces community throughout the project.”

The exhibition is open to the public from 10am to 4pm Monday to Saturday while the digital immersive experience is open from 10am to 3.30pm from 23 October to Saturday, 20 November to the end of the exhibition.

For more information on the project, please email [email protected]

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