community building

Wojtek – The Bear that went to war. An interview with Animal Monday’s Will Hood


I run a group on Facebook here promoting the learning of the Anders Army history through projects concerned with Wojtek the Soldier Bear.

One of the uses of this group is to distribute information about Wojtek related initiatives, cultural events and the like. I first heard about Animal Monday at an event in the Scottish Parliament at the beginning of 2010 over 2 years ago. Since then Animal Monday have made a film Wojtek – The Bear that went to war. Details of what to do if you want to organise a showing, or see it, are in this interview I did by e-mail with Will Hood. Many thanks to him for his time.

You can visit the film page here

1. Where did the idea of a film about Wojtek come from ?

The film maker Pinny Grylls and I had worked on a film about a sheep that crossed the line separating man from beast (Peter & Ben – 2009 Invisible films) And she had heard about the story from a friend whilst at a funeral. Being a subject that we both are fascinated by we planned to make the film together – but due to the huge amount of research and development that was needed, spanning over two years, by the time we had got backing to go in to production, she was unable to commit the time that the project needed.

2. When you first heard the story of Wojtek what was your reaction, did you believe it

I’m not sure i really did believe it at first – but i was very aware that other people really did believe it – and that was the most interesting thing from a film making perspective. I still find it amazing quite how much of an influence this bear had on the people i met during the making of this film. They believed in him and that is very touching.

3 what is/are your favorite Wojtek story/ies/?

There are many stories i like – the getting entangled in the underwear story (as told in Lasocki’s – soldier bear book) – and the bear attending plays and falling asleep and farting in Berwick (as told in Aileen’s Orr’s recent book ) are favourites. But i absolutely love the hole story/ legend of him carrying the shells at Cassino. Its such a pivotal part of his army career and made so much appealing to the imagination by the lack of photo evidence. Our film features an interview with John Clarke MBE of the black watch who saw Wojtek perform this legendary act and his eyes nearly pop out of his head as he tells the story – it’s still very exciting for him 60 years after the event.

4. Some people react negatively to the idea of an animal being used in war. What would you say to those people

This animal is different and was there by his own volition – he believed he was a man. This was not a case of animal cruelty.

5. what is the launch schedule for your film. What languages are planned. and who should anyone contact if they want to help get the film into another language

The film shall broadcast on terrestrial channels around Europe at the end of the year. Presently this includes Britain, Israel, Germany and Poland. But we are hoping more countries in and outside the EU will wish to broadcast it. Anyone interested in the film who wishes to contact the creators should go to – or to find out more info about the story you can visit the soon to be live website

6. if someone wants to arrange a viewing of the film in there school or cultural centre, who should they approach and how much does it cost?

As above

7. The story of Wojtek is connected with terrible suffering and tragedy. Do you think the focus on Wojtek is appropriate in this context

Yes… The story of Wojtek is connected with terrible suffering and tragedy – but it is also a story of enduring human spirit, hope and perseverance and i think that it is totally appropriate that his story is celebrated for this reason. All of the Polish veterans that i talked to were devoid of self pity or martyrdom concerning what had happened to their people/ country during the 2nd world war and i believe that the story of the bear then and now is a way to describe their journey from Russia through the middle east, Italy and Scotland in a way that doesn’t portray them as victims. This seems important to me as they are all very strong and proud individuals that have survived a very profound time in our shared history.

8. If someone reading this is considering a “Wojtek” project in their school, would you encourage them to go for a drama, like in Ely, painting like in Poland or singing like in Italy or Scotland.

I would encourage creative expression of all persuasion – i do think however it propagating the Wojtek story further (ie. if you become the storyteller – through your project) it is important to get the information right and to treat the real people involved with the respect due to them.

9., Have you met people during the making of the film who might be interested in doing further “wojtek” related projects to help spread the word about the bear and this forgotten history.

Not that aren’t already engaged in projects already – ie. Aileen Orr or Krystyna Ivell

10. how much does it cost to make a film like this, and how it funded?

The film was made on a very modest budget and involved a lot of late nights with a small team of people who really believed that this was a story worth sharing with a greater audience. It was funded in part by by BBC Scotland, PISF, MDR – and produced by AnimalMonday and Braidemade films

11. Is there anything else you think people should know before going off to see the film?

No bears were harmed in the making of this film and in fact one even received a donut

community building

Interview with Charles Cracknell -Employment and Youth Enterprise Manager – Hull City Council Training

I came across Charles Cracknell, thanks to Global Entrepreneurship Week and seeing his activity on Social Networking sites on Facebook. After exchanging a few e-mails I asked if I could interview him. The outcome is below.

There is a lot to learn from and emulate in what he is doing.

1. What are your responsibilities with respect to entrepreneurship support in schools and universitiies?

In general my role is develop and support the development of the City of Hull’s entrepreneurial culture so we work in all of the schools and colleagues at the University in order to do this. We run a programme for under 11’s were a business loans a group of young people £150 and they have to turn it into a profit using 13 Enterprise Schools. For 13 year olds we run a programme with out football and rugby club in which they get an enterprise qualification and learn about the clubs as a business not just about the players. Then we give grants and business advice to young people. Going to others for advice about their business could be difficult for some people; however, everyone needs support when developing their enterprise, which is why business advisory services similar to The Alternative Board exist.

2. It’s hard to measure the impact of activities that are designed to change mentality opinion and values. What are simple ways of being sure that your work is successful ?

You are right we tend to use case studies as evidence which are invaluable showing how the young person has adapted the enterprise skills we promote, also we ask the young people to be ambassadors for us which is the most successful way of showing how we are doing

3. What are the best examples of low budget high impact projects that you recommend for people organisations in other parts of the world to try

Our giving of loans to young people in schools with the support of a business mentor is certainly the lowest cost budget wise. However our Youth Enterprise Bank that gives on average £500 with general business support has achieved great success and this is lowcost at £137K going to over 200 young people. Much of this is funded via fundraisers and donations from Hull’s business community for instance KC a telecommunications company has just agreed to give us £20K a year for three years to give as grants.

4. What are the biggest barriers to getting your message through to young people, and how do you overcome them?

There own limitations which once they realise they are enterprising everyday in what they do and show they can be a success we can overcome the barriers easy.

5.Who else in your support network are important allies, how do you find them and how do they help?

Every one of our 60 odd partners are important allies but the most important are the young entreprenurs we have helped in the past as they are very willing to put something back.

6. Do other towns and local governments in the UK (or internationally) that have equivalents of you? and are there any events, places, on line networks through which we can reach them

Yes there are people with similar roles to me in the UK in particular in Yorkshire area who we work with via for our area – we work in particular with Rotherham who have helped us with our enterprise culture agenda and our primary enterprise person is employed by them but managed by me it’s a great partnership

7. What are examples of people/projects that don’t work well or have a negative impact what are dangers signs to look out for. We notice that sometimes a lot of money is spend on activities that have rather limited impact

I would agree in general any programme that is not about the individual and about numbers / bums on seats in my view does not create a cultural change or inspire

8. What are your biggest challenges and goals for the next five years.

To keep things together will be a challenge with a range of cut backs that are taking place, my biggest goal though is to persuade the banks to to give full business bank account privillages and support to those young people who set up in business or want to set up in business as after all if they get them young they will have good customers in the future.

9. What advice you would give to people who have similar responsibilities to you ?

Do not give in its worth it in the end and by developing an enterprise culture amongst young people you can change how your area develops as an economic power house using the imagination and drive of your young people

10. Does the current economic climate negatively impact the budget available for the work you do, or do cut backs simply mean there is more need to be creative in identifying supporting projects that don’t need much funding

Certainly it’s a challenge and we will step up to it with the support of partners and the city’s business community, we are looking to establish an enterprise club with Jobcentreplus for the Under 18’s in Hull so we can start working with young people who maybe only route into the labour market is through self employment.

11 Is there anything that we can do to help you, or are there projects which could work well with a partner in another part of Europe?

To my mind anything is possible as we have a large Polish Community in Hull and would welcome any proposals you might have maybe you could come over sometime

This I am not sure of but we are always looking to develop new links across Europe and explore ways of working with new colleagues

“Taking part in enterprise education at school doubles the likelihood of a person starting a business, showing that entrepreneurs really can be made with the right support and encouragement.”


HULL: The family friendly city where no child is left behind.
Hull City Council recognises the importance of delivering high quality services that meet your needs. How you see the services provided by us determines whether we succeed or fail. As part of our pursuit of Service Excellence, we want to know your views of the services provided – whether they are good or bad. If you have a suggestion that may improve the services we provide let us know. All of this information will help us to provide services that:

· Are reliable
· Meet your needs
· Represent value for money

We recognise that things do go wrong from time to time, and when they do, we need to know about them. Similarly, when a particular service that we provide is working well, and you are satisfied with it – we want to know. This is so that we can share this good practice for the benefit of others.