Saturday, 15 November 2014

Poppies at the Tower


This Saturday Snapshot is a little late, but it is still Saturday (just), so here goes. Since it was Remembrance Day on November 11, I decided to share a couple of three pictures that I took when my Younger Daughter and I went to see the ceramic poppies at the Tower of London, created by Paul Cummins to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, with settings by theatre designer Tom Piper.
 
Ceramic poppies in the moat at the Tower of London.
It was back in September that we visited the art installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, when it was about half-way to completion, but even at that stage it was stunning, thought provoking, and very moving.

The whole project was also very symbolic. There are the poppies of course, more than 8 million of them (888246 to be precise), filling the moat and spilling from a tower window, like a river of blood, surrounding the building.  Each bright red ceramic poppy represents one of the 888246 British and Colonial servicemen who lost their lives during WW1. In addition, work on the project got under way on August 6 (the day that British troops were engaged in their first action back in 1914), and finished on November 11, or Armistice Day, when hostilities finally came to an end at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
 
Poppies cascading from a window.
According to Historic Royal Palaces Tower of London Cummins took his inspiration words written by a soldier who died at Flanders: “The Blood Swept lands and seas of red, where angels fear to tread.” And potters at his studio created the poppies using hand-made techniques common at the time of the Great War.

And another view of the poppies, from the other side of the cascade.
While the poppies were there, the Last Post was played at sunset every evening, but this week volunteers have been dismantling the art work. Some parts of it, including the poppies cascading from a window, will be displayed at a series of temporary exhibitions around the country. But many will be sold to help raise cash for service charities in the UK. I believe they’re £25 each, and 10 per cent goes to the charities, plus all net proceeds.

I must admit that when I went to see the poppies I didn’t quite know what to expect, and feared it be rather mawkish and sentimental, and that it might glorify war. But it wasn’t like that at all. I thought it brought home the pity and horror of war, and somehow this monumental piece of art made me realise just how great the slaughter was, especially when you multiply the numbers across the various nations involved.
An individual poppy on the information board.
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14 comments:

  1. Your photos are striking. I had heard of this installation, but had not seen pictures. Your photos show how massive and amazing it really was.
    Thank you for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment.

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    1. To be honest, it was so big it was quite difficult trying to convey what I saw, so I'm pleased you feel they give something of the atmosphere.

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  2. Wow!! That's huge, and absolutely beautiful!!

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    1. Thank you Vicki. I thought it was quite incredible.

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  3. What an amazing project and so very moving. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. It was very moving. There were so many poppies, even though it was unfinished when I went, and when you think that each poppy is a body, the true scale of the loss of life in WW1 really hits you.

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  4. I've never heard of the project. It's very touching, especially to me as a Canadian who grew up wearing a poppy every year on Remembrance Day. Thank you for sharing the facts and photos.

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    1. I think this touched a great many people in Britain, but there was some criticism from people who felt there should have been a tribute to everyone who died in WW1, no matter which side they were on.

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  5. How gorgeous! And wonderful to commemorate with the ceramic poppies.

    Thanks for sharing...and for visiting my blog.

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    1. It seems a shame the whole thing has now been dismantled, but I guess it would lose its impact if it was there all the time.

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  6. What great pictures- how lucky you were to see it in person. I'd seen it on the news several times, and we went to the Tower of London last year, so it had a personal relevance too.

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    1. I was lucky Louise - I think there are a lot of people who wanted to see it and didn't get a chance.

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  7. Very impressive! Putting an art installation together like that is such an achievement!

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    1. A lot of planning and hard work must have gone into it Susan. It certainly seemed to capture the public imagination.

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