More Poppies

Well it has turned out to be epic and quite beyond the scale of anything i imagined or have done before. It has become a project of so many strands and layers and meanings. What began as Paul Cummins’ bold and brilliant idea of making 888.246 poppies to commemorate the Allied fallen in the First World War  has become, like all good theatre, so much bigger than the sum of the individual contributions. It was taken on by Deborah Shaw at the Tower as a major artwork, she  involved me to create a dramatic installation and narrative for the piece and now it has become a  project that so many can contribute to by volunteering to plant, buying a poppy for later distribution around the world, suggesting names for the role call of the fallen each evening for the last Post, and perhaps most importantly anybody can come free without queuing to look, watch and reflect.

Originally, we had conceived of a grand unveiling on Fifth of August , but it soon became clear that there was no way we could hide the growing fields of red from the public, nor could we plant so many in such a short lead time. So the decision to allow the planting to happen gradually in waves, with volunteers giving up four hours of their time to hammer stakes and add washers and the ceramic poppy heads, has been the making of the idea. I cant really control how they plant, there is a scheme, but each team does it slightly differently and the different densities and patterns give the work a natural organic feel. They have become as much the artists as me or Paul.

I had always hoped we would create something that was very different to the Flanders field memorials which are chillingly beautiful in their ordered formality. For me this had to be about lost life, the spirit and energy of all those young lives , something that would celebrate and at the same time mourn that loss. The title of the piece led me very simply to the idea of Poppies as water , or blood, seeping from the tower, crashing over in waves gradually filling the moat till on November 11th no green grass will be left un-planted. Telegraph article

With grateful thanks to Lily Arnold and Emma Bailey who assisted me, Deborah Shaw and John Brown and all at the Tower who have stood by the project through all its immense challenges, all the team leaders of  the volunteers under Julian Cree, Paul and his amazing team of Poppy manufacturers, Seb and Martin at TR2 in Plymouth who made all the structures, the Scaffolding Company , all the Yeoman warders and most importantly all the Charities, volunteers and the public who have taken this project to their Hearts .Many thanks x

the wave under construction at TR2 in Plymouth

the wave under construction at TR2 in Plymouth

The wave made by TR2 from Plymouth nearly in place

The wave made by TR2 from Plymouth nearly in place

First poppy planted

First poppy planted

original sketch for the wave by Tom Piper

original sketch for the wave by Tom Piper

The first evening. Wave designed by Tom Piper

The first evening. Wave designed by Tom Piper

designed by Tom Piper

designed by Tom Piper

An installation By Tom Piper with Original idea and Poppies created by Paul Cummins

An installation By Tom Piper with Original idea and Poppies created by Paul Cummins

 

Comments

  1. David Killelay says:

    Blood swept lands and seas of red

    Blood swept lands and seas of red
    Forever loved forever dead
    Eight hundred thousand , just make a note
    Symbolic round the tower moat
    At home and abroad in foreign parts
    Still remembered in caring hearts
    The moat is dry, no water here
    Just poppies and a loved one’s tear.

    David Killelay

  2. Hi tom

    Do you know how long the poppies will be there for? (as my mum would like to make the visit to see the sea of poppies)

    Karen

    • The installation is completed on nov 11 th then from the 12 th on the poppies are removed over a two week period to be sent to all the members of the public who have bought them .

  3. Peter Ormond says:

    Tom,

    I saw this last weekend, both under floodlight and in daylight. A truly awesome and an emotional sight, especially as I have only recently found out that a great uncle died in that War as a result of wounds sustained in Gallipoli. Many thanks for the thoughtful, and thought provoking, concept and design. I now await my poppy in memory of Great Uncle, Cpl James Ormond.

    Well done.

    Peter

  4. Angie King says:

    What an amazing thing you have done!
    Many congratulations.
    But may I ask? Are you Evanthe’s brother?
    I was at school with her!

  5. Hello Tom.

    Congratulations for the wonderful display of your artwork and to hear about your well deserved MBE I was too late to order a poppy, they look so beautiful! If you ever consider making more I would love to know as I’m sure many others would!

    Kind regards
    Gwen

  6. Amanda Barron (nee Banks) says:

    Hi Tom,

    Many many congratulations on your inspirational art work and a much deserved MBE- I’m so happy for you! It’s very exciting and couldn’t have happened to a nicer person. I’ve been thinking of trying to contact you to say congratulations but wasn’t sure how to and hope this message works.

    My mother and 9 year old daughter went to see the poppies in October and all three of us were in awe- it was very moving. My mother’s uncle died in the First World War and actually the weekend before we had been to see a painting of my mother hung in the Imperial War Museum as she was one of the first child to receive antibiotics from Alexander Fleming. So we feel very connected to both wars this year.I ordered two poppies and they’ve just arrived today! Happy New Year and all the very best for the future:) Amanda (From Trinity) xx

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