Hadrian's Wall hosts international conference

A conference opens today which will explore how Hadrian’s Wall still has a part to play in the modern world

Lessons from Hadrian’s Wall will be applied to modern society at today’s conference
Lessons from Hadrian’s Wall will be applied to modern society at today’s conference

A conference opens today which will explore how Hadrian’s Wall still has a part to play in the modern world.

The event at Tullie House Museum in Carlisle aims to investigate how studies of the Wall, the way it operated and its legacy over the centuries means it can have a role in the promotion of world peace.

“After nearly two millennia frontier walls are still part of the world’s political and geographical landscape,” said conference organiser Mark Gibbs. “We will compare and contrast our ancient frontier with modern border conflicts, from the viewpoint of historians, politicians, academics, medics, filmmakers and artists.

“The idea is to show that although Hadrian’s Wall is an ancient structure it still has a great deal of significance. We will be exploring how it is not just about archaeology and old stones but that the Wall has modern relevance.”

Experts will examine how barriers, from Hadrian’s Wall and the Berlin Wall to the Gaza Wall in Palestine, divide communities and create borders.

“To many people, Hadrian’s Wall represents the border between England and Scotland, and we still talk about the Border country,” said Mr Gibbs.

Another area of exploration will focus on the debate about borders in Europe against increasing number of immigrants fleeing poverty and unrest in Africa.

The likely experiences of the Roman governors appointed to run the conquered lands to the south of Hadrian’s Wall and how they dealt with the threat from the north will also be considered.

This will tie in with contribution at the conference by speaker Rory Stewart MP, who in 2003 was coalition deputy governor of the Marsh Arab region of Southern Iraq.

There is also the ongoing debate about the purpose of Hadrian’s Wall and whether it was a defensive line against attack or a customs barrier to control movement to the north and the south.

The conference is inspired by the Living Wall display in the Roman Frontier Gallery at Tullie House which brings history up to date using audio visual displays to illustrate modern border conflicts.

Speakers at the conference will include Professor Peter Stone, head of the School of Arts and Cultures at Newcastle University, Anneka-Susan Hackenbroich, from the University of Education Schwäbisch Gmünd in Germany, Tim Padley, curator of archaeology and Andrew MacKay, head of collections at Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery Trust.

It will also feature artist John Byrne, who set up a border post in what had been a small shop near the Irish border itself on the main Dublin-Belfast road. The centre was adorned by a specially designed neon sign and was stocked with souvenirs and gifts including ceramic miniature British army watchtowers wishing “Good luck from the border”, sticks of border candy rock, T-shirts, bagged samples of the Border and a selection of postcards. A plaque celebrated the twinning of the Irish border with its Korean counterpart.

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