Academy artwork commemorates influenza victims

A poignant piece of artwork created by Wolves Academy youngsters commemorating 100 years since the deadly outbreak of influenza is on display at Wolverhampton Art Gallery.

Each year as part of a Premier League educational project centred around the First World War, Wolves’ under-12s study a different topic to develop the young players’ knowledge and understanding of some of the events that took place between 1914 and 1918.

This season, the Academy players delved into the history books at Wolverhampton’s City Archives to learn about how the influenza outbreak impacted on Wolverhampton and even ended up taking the lives of 216 people from the city.

Laura Green, Wolves Academy education and welfare officer, who helped the under-12s with their studies said: “The boys found some great information when they visited the archives.

“They discovered a newspaper article where a local man had killed his family to stop them from getting the flu, as well as records about local schools and cinemas being closed to stop the pandemic from spreading and a letter from an undertaker saying they didn’t have the staff to dig anymore graves.

“A Canadian lady who was also visiting the City Archives at the same time asked the boys what they were researching before telling them that her grandmother had been left on a doorstep of a neighbour as her parents were dying with flu, which they were really interested in too.”

While looking at the H1N1 images under a microscope, the players felt the virus looked like graffiti, and decided they wanted to create an abstract piece of artwork to make people aware about the effects of the flu.

Ahead of visiting the archives, the players also met with club historian Pat Quirke who led them on a tour of the Wolves Museum and taught the youngsters about former winger Tommy Hunter, a member of the 1889 FA Cup Final team who died as part of the pandemic.

They players found a photograph Hunter from the FA Cup final programme and they decided to use that as part of their artwork, which they wanted to complete in gold and black as a tribute to the people who died from Wolverhampton.

The artwork created by the Academy players is now on display at Wolverhampton Art Gallery which is free to view by members of the pubic. Once the artwork has spent a month at the art gallery, it will have a permanent place in the Wolves Museum.