A Tale Worth Telling

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Senior Producer Steve Hewitt was honoured to have his reflections on the International Bomber Command Centre project included in its opening ceremony’s commemorative book. We’ve reproduced his contribution here.

“For everyone at Centre Screen, it was a genuine honour to be asked to provide the audiovisual and interactive content for the International Bomber Command Centre. Having seen the designs created by Redman – with whom we have a long and successful relationship – we were sure that this would be a project to be proud of. More than that, though, these were stories that cried out to be told well – and we are, above all, storytellers.

And the first story we had to tell was one that hadn’t even occurred to some of the older members of our team: the story of how the Second World War actually came about. The introductory films at the entrance to the Operation Bomber Command gallery do just that, showing why there was a war and how Bomber Command came to play such a pivotal role.

We began with research, much already provided by the team at the Centre, but with many crucial details waiting to be found. We pored for countless hours over archive photos and films, we went back to school history lessons – and found that much of what we recalled was wrong. By the time we’d finished, we had a set of films that, we believe, tell the story clearly, truthfully and fairly.

Authenticity, it became clear, was going to be essential. After all, people who had actually fought that war would be seeing our films and interactives. Telling their story well and honestly, commemorating “those who served and those who suffered,” was a responsibility we all felt keenly, not least because some of us have personal connections to Bomber Command. For instance, we discovered that one of our designers’ grandfather had been a rear gunner in Lancasters.

Authenticity, therefore, became our watchword. When you take on the Bomber Crew Challenge – the large interactive table – the crew station on your screen is designed using actual photographs of Lancaster interiors. The mission you fly is modeled on Operation Hydra, flown against the V2 research station in Peenemunde in 1943.

Looming over it it, The Geography of War shows every bombing raid of the war in Europe, condensed into 10 minutes, projected 7m wide. Driving that animation is a precise record of aircraft numbers and raid latitude and longitude, taken from official records from every air force involved. Upstairs in the Remembering Bomber Command gallery, our set of mini-documentaries represents weeks of creative effort, crafting what we learned about the Bomber Command’s legacy into entertaining, or moving, or eye-opening stories.

But if we had to point to one piece of work, it would be the immersive show. Working side-by-side with electronics experts, a composer, sound and lighting wizards, the exhibition designers at Redman and the IBCC’s own team, we tried our best to recreate what an air raid felt like. What you see and hear will be, wherever possible, from contemporary archive: intercom chatter from bomber crewmen, newsreel and aerial reconnaissance footage, photoflash images taken by bombers, and personal archive of the aftermath. We couldn’t hope, of course, to replicate the experience of aircrew or civilians on the ground – but we do believe we’ve captured much of the emotion.

It’s been hard, detailed, and demanding work, but the result is, as we hoiped, a project of which we are proud – proud of our work, and proud to have been asked to tell such an important story.

Because it really is a tale worth the telling.”