Remembrance

I can’t sleep on the morning of 11/11/2014, partly jet lag and mainly just a whirlwind of thoughts on the day The Tower Poppies Installation , Blood swept land’s and Seas of Red which i have created with Paul Cummins is approaching its high point. This morning the last poppy will be planted with a final role of honour read. Then there will be stillness for a day as the world, it seems if one is judge from front covers and media interviews looming, turns and looks and hopefully thinks.

This project has been in a continual state of flux and change. The fact that it is never fixed and we don’t really know quite what it is going to be or what will happen next has been the making of it. The 25,000 volunteers marshalled by Kirsty , Julian, Jim and their teams have made the project their own and the individuality of the planting has given the overall piece the natural flowing feel that so many have responded to. The central theme of  a single Poppy for a single life has enabled the public to invest at a personal level as so many families have been prompted to look back in their histories to find out about past war experiences and the consequences, while many of our planters had a much closer connection to conflicts , either serving in the forces or being relatives. On another level the project has had a far bigger societal impact as the sheer scale of the installation and the length of time it has taken to make and plant all the poppies has brought home the sheer scale of the war and the losses it involved.

I don’t believe it to be sentimental, it is a celebration of the lost life force and energy of those lives cut short. The flowing nature of the piece with the poppies pouring from the tower and swirling around the moat and over the bridge, give it an energy and a monumental power which i hope is  a positive commemoration of those lives, while at the same time challenging us to ask the question why ?

The next phase of the installation is changing again, we had for many weeks been debating if there could be a way to preserve the two iconic elements the weeping window and the wave. We always knew we could sell the poppies as individuals , but we both felt that it would be right that the two sculptural pieces could remain intact as art works in their own right, to in sense commemorate the installation it self and hopefully to carry on stimulating, debate , reflection, charitable work and education. Also it would be wonderful for other areas of the country to see the work, so i am delighted that the two charitable trusts we approached have bravely stepped forward to buy the pieces for the Nation to be gifted to the Imperial War Museum (north and south). The Government has promised financing to enable us to create a series of new smaller scale installations of these pieces in various urban and rural locations in the UK until 2018. We have started discussions with 1418Now on how we can make all this work. it is early days but if conversations in the moat are anything to go by, it is going to be an exciting next chapter as the poppies are spread around the country and the world.

Blood swept lands and seas of red by Paul Cummins and Tom Piper

Blood swept lands and seas of red by Paul Cummins and Tom Piper

Comments

  1. Well said and well done. A monumental and lasting contribution.

  2. Wonderful tribute, may we never forget

  3. Annabel Welch says:

    Thank you – for a beautiful, meaningful way of helping us to understand the scale of loss – individual and across nations.

  4. Peter E Goodall says:

    Tom Piper, Paul Cummins and anyone else who might further this idea.

    Re: The Andrew Muir Show – BBC1 Sunday 9th.November 2014 @9a.m. “Smash the poppies” – No, no Sheila ——-, Wouldn’t it be better for them to leave the ‘field’ gracefully, by reducing ‘their’ number week by week over the next four years, proportional to the number who died each week. This would add vividly to the memory of the conflict as it happened. People worldwide who wish to view the Poppy Field at the Tower of London would have a longer period of opportunity in which to do so, whilst at the same time gradually releasing the Poppies to their future owners.

    Could this be possible at this late stage?

    Peter G

  5. Peter E Goodall says:

    A magnificent tribute.
    Would it be possible for the Poppies to leave the ‘field’ gracefully? By reducing ‘their’ number week by week over the next four years, proportional to the number who died each week. This would add vividly to the memory of the conflict as it happened. People worldwide who wish to view the Poppy Field at the Tower of London would have a longer period of opportunity in which to do so, whilst at the same time gradually releasing the Poppies to their future owners.

  6. Matilda Longville says:

    Very good display, you have even made us at school inspired to make our own ceramic poppies for our own field of rememberence!!!

  7. A citizen of the United States of America thanks you, Paul Cummins, and all those involved with this wonderful, vivid and lovely 100 year remembrance. Most importantly, I thank Britain and all those affected by the military heros that gave their lives to protect not only Britain but the world!

  8. Tom

    Today I went to see the poppies and find myself moved, humbled and given a sense of perspective that no other artwork or memorial has been able to invoke. In my time, I have made a very, very minor contribution to the defence of this Land and it core beliefs, but never before have i felt as much a part of a long term tradition of sacrifice until I stood at the Tower today. I have made no sacrifice, I have done a job here and a job there that has been part of the Uk’s defence against terrorism and adversary nations.

    In that context may I say, as someone who knew you many years ago, and without wishing to sound patronising, that I am proud of you, proud that our lives crossed and I had the opportunity to know you, albeit briefly and perhaps not as closely as I might have liked. We shared battles on the rugby field which in no way compare to those shared by the men represented by the poppies, but they were meaningful in their way.

    You have done something of which the entire nation should be proud and I salute you.

    Oscar

  9. I was in tower London the 11 november and it was a spectacular view
    I should like to buy one of your poppie if it is possible
    How can I do?
    Many thanks for your answer
    Sincerely
    G Zahnd

  10. Tom when you say; “I don’t believe it to be sentimental, it is a celebration of the lost life force and energy of those lives cut short”. Thinking then about your choose of word here; ‘celebration’ would ‘commemortation’ not be a better fit…surely we are not celebrating this loss of live are we?

  11. Hi Tom
    Can you confirm how the figure of 888,246 was arrived at, please?
    I see the BBC refer to “British and colonial soldiers” for this figure (see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-30001177).
    The Long, Long Trail website refers to official statistics from the 1920’s showing 956,703 “British Army” dead, though this includes Royal Navy and RFC/RAF casualties (see: http://www.1914-1918.net/faq.htm).
    By reference to the same webpage, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission appear to list 111,4805 total WW1 dead on graves and memorials, though I wonder whether some names might be repeated within that number.
    It is obviously not a straightforward matter, but I am writing a piece in which I may include a total figure, so I am wondering what is the best figure that I might quote.
    Many thanks
    Shane Hines

  12. Alison Jane Gaff says:

    My poem inspired by your Poppies ;

    The Poppies fill the Towers moat
    A sea of bright red flowers
    They represent the bravest men
    Who gave their lives for ours

    Some were young they had not lived,
    Nor loved, nor grown, nor flowered
    Sent to fight on foreign land
    Where war took and devoured.

    100years it now has passed
    Since Flanders fields turned red
    All those lives so sadly lost
    Must be Remember-red Alison Jane Gaff 8/10/14

  13. Shane Hines says:

    Thanks, Tom – will do – regards, Shane Hines

  14. Shane Hines says:

    Hi Tom – me again – Paul’s website refers one on to the Tower of London website, which I now see has some FAQs, including the following on the number: “There was one poppy for each British fatality in the First World War. The figure of 888,246 derives from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission audit of 2010.” Rather than bug you both further, I’ll see if I can work out how the CWGC figures might give this number. Many thanks and regards, Shane Hines

  15. sheila halliday says:

    Hello Tom, I had one of the beautiful poppies for a Christmas present from my eldest daughter, as she knows of my interest in the Great War. My father lived but his dear friend died, so one of your incredible poppies was for him. His son was killed in WW2. I also sponsored a soldier unknown to me, who was shot at dawn in 1917 and through British Legion, also unknown to me, another soldier killed aged 20. I have a few brass shell-cases from the Great War and at first I planted my poppy in one of the shiney ones but then decided to put in into a narrow shell–case that bears the marks and colour of battle. My grandaughter bought me the picture of the poppies at the Tower and I have put it on a wall next to the official pardon of Ernest Worsely – tucked in the back of the frame I have put the newspaper cutting about the Turner Prize snobs – and I was so pleased to know the Queen was not a snob, when I read the New Year’s Honours.

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