Founded in 2014 as a First World War commemoration project, Never Such Innocence runs an annual international poetry, art, speech and song competition for youngsters aged nine to 18, which focuses on conflict and its impact. Army&You spoke to the charity’s CEO, Lady Lucy French, to find out more…

I GREW up the youngest of four daughters. Many childhood memories were of stories of my great-grandfather, Field Marshal Sir John French, during both the Boer War and the First World War. 

“The army was at his core. His dedication was the initial inspiration for starting Never Such Innocence [NSI],” said Lady Lucy French. “I wanted to give young people an opportunity to recognise and remember the service and sacrifice our armed forces made during that war, providing them with important platforms to share their voices.”

Amazing response

During the Great War’s centenary year, NSI received in excess of 11,000 entries, with submissions arriving from more than 47 countries, across five continents. 

“I was overwhelmed and moved, frequently to tears, by the poignant, thought-provoking work that the children created,” explained Lady Lucy French.

As the centenary year drew to a close, NSI had to decide where the organisation would go next. 

The answer was to provide a place for children to understand conflict more broadly and have a way to process everything that they see in the media today.

Last summer, the charity invited children of Invictus UK trials competitors to design masks that showed how they felt about their mum or dad competing. 

“The creative programme provided a positive space for the children to express how they felt and to feel part of the recovery journey,” said Brigadier Fred Hargreaves OBE, deputy director of the UK Invictus Games delegation.

Get involved

The Impact of Conflict on Communities is this year’s theme and NSI wants to hear from armed forces children. 

Those interested in the competition can write a poem, speech, song or create a piece of art, with entries submitted online at neversuchinnocence.com by 20 March. 

“I hope that some of the winners this year will be a representative of the military community and become a voice for other military children,” said Lady Lucy French.

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