Today is Armistice Day ...
At the Paul Cummins’ factory in Derby the ceramicists worked round the clock to make each of the 888,246 poppies, by hand, that will, by 11th November, complete the installation, fill the dry moats.
The carpet of poppies, spilling from the tower and sweeping around its base, has drawn praise for its dignity and creativity.
Each poppy represents a British and colonial life lost in the First World War.
A few days after I visited the Tower and this amazing poppy display … Ailsa Craddock wrote in The Saturday Times: “there were thousands of spectators looking on – I have never been in such a large crowd of well-behaved, interested and caring people from all cultures, nations and ages”.
Mrs Craddock was one of the volunteers selected to plant some of the ceramic poppies in the Moat – so she had an even better take on events, than I did.
The army of volunteers who turned out in all weathers to make sure the poppies were planted on time – grandmothers, students, civil servants, airline cabin crew, injured soldiers, holders of the Victoria Cross, charity workers …
… people of every colour and creed and every walk of life, united by a desire to take part in one of the most eye-catching installations ever mounted in London.
In the room where the volunteers assemble – some 19,000+ to date – a map shows where they have all come from. There are red dots everywhere: Australia, the Philippines, Japan, China, Alaska, Peru, Finland, Dubai … there is even one in Siberia.
|The Tower of London before the installation|
The young will greater appreciate the significance of the period and that dreadful War, after visiting this display, and remembering through their own family histories.
Each day as the sun went down, a yeoman warder read a roll call of names who had fallen during the War, a bugler played the Last Post. A hush fell among the crowds … 180 requested names were read out …
Tom Piper, who planned and constructed this sixteen acre display of poppies … a single poppy for a single life … it has taken three months to ‘plant’ every ceramic poppy – creating his memorial artwork, which has finally established itself in the public mind.
Piper, a set designer, who is acclaimed for his work with the Royal Shakespeare Company, came to the project after artist Paul Cummins, who created the first commemorative ceramic bloom, asked if he’d like to collaborate.
In discussion about the installation, Piper has said that he’s learnt not to illustrate the themes of a play with the obvious … thus here it is about loss and commemoration, which has given us all in our own distinct appreciative instinct - a way to tap into the War … back to our family history, or just a realisation of the enormity of it all ….
The timing of 100 years since the start of that appalling conflict, and the fact technology has raced ahead … many more are now exploring their family trees and unearthing the true stories of their ancestors … filling in some of the blanks from distant days …
A few poppies have been held back for that key date today … the 11th hour of the 11th day, of the 11th month: Armistice Day …
The display does look beautiful … but if we/you contemplate that each poppy within that amazing art work does represent someone’s lost life during World War One … perhaps not appreciated in such full comprehension … the Bloody Sea will have done its job.
There are six Service charities that will benefit from the purchase of each poppy … someone I know bought six for their local church – to be used on Remembrance Day in the future and for other appropriate events.
Neither the designer, nor the artist have profited from the creation … and it is hoped that the two major sculptural components – the wave, and the waterfall from the Tower window – can be sold to raise extra funds.
“Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” is a unique art installation … which from the first poppy being planted in August, to the visits by the Queen and Royal Family, to other Service personnel, the volunteers who have planted the poppies – who have all watched this amazing ‘painting by numbers’ fulfil its potential.
|Planted poppies - to be filled in with many|
more poppies to create a 'carpet' effect
I wasn’t going to see it – but on advice, thought I should make the effort … and effort it was as my post explained! but it has opened my eyes in many a different direction. An interesting experience …
There is talk now of leaving it up … but I hope they stick with their decision to start the dismantling process … it was an opportunity, just not taken up by many, who now wish they had: an opportunity cut short – yet reflects the lives of those opportunities denied.
The coming week will let us know … the poppies have turned out to be a dignified tribute – one that will be remembered by this nation for many a decade to come.
|Wikipedia's picture for today:|
Papaver Rhoeas (bud, flower and fruit (capsule))
Two other things … the transport challenges have been met with better signage, which I certainly didn’t see on my recent trip just before Halloween … and when we donate for our poppy, once pinned on to our jackets, shirts etc …the oak leaf should be set at eleven o’clock – I hadn’t realised that before.
Apparently the idea came from a poem Paul Cummins read - from an unknown soldier, who did not return, but sent these emotive words home ... here visually recreated 100 years later ...
Another PS - perhaps I should add that I believe it was 20 million human beings, who each lost their life in World War One ... it was a real world war. As Trisha mentioned below ... an estimate of 55 million lost their lives in both World Wars.
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