As you may or may not know, thousands of volunteers came together in a UK-wide event on Friday (1st July 2016) to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. The modern memorial was organised by 14-18 NOW and we saw the wonderful work created by Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller who collaborated with Rufus Norris, the Director of the National Theatre.
Members of the public were able to witness nearly 1400 volunteers, dressed up in historically accurate First World War uniforms, appear randomly in locations across the UK. The participants walked through shopping centres, train stations, high streets and even beaches and were a gentle reminder of the 19,240 men who were killed on the first day of the Somme 100 years ago. Each participant represented a soldier who was killed on that day and members of the public were handed cards with the name, regiment of the soldier they represented and the age when he died on 1st July 1916.
The soldiers were almost like ghosts, they did not speak or respond to any passers-by, only a mere smile or a tip of the hat. But throughout the day, the soldiers would start to sing ‘we’re here because we’re here’ to the tune of Auld Lang Syne, a song that was sung in the trenches in WW1. I had the honour to be in Swansea during this project and I was humbled to see so many people going up to the soldiers and thanking them or just being genuinely moved by their actions. Cars beeped their respects as they passed and people stared in admiration at the extraordinary sight of these soldiers, the ghosts of men who risked their lives for our future.
In terms of scale on this project, ‘we’re here because we’re here’ went up and beyond regarding the number of people involved and was a huge success considering this was the first time so many theatres have worked together on a UK-wide project. The news of the We Are Here project spread like wildfire across social media not only in the UK but all over the world. Thousands of people took to Twitter and Instagram to share their photos and videos of the soldiers throughout the day. The people of Swansea really felt the powerful message of #WeAreHere and took moments out of their day to bow their heads in front of the volunteers and just spare a thought for the fallen soldiers of the Somme.
I was very surprised to discover that the participants were in fact not trained actors but your normal every day Joes. From doctors to social workers, flight attendants to a GCSE student, these men had spent a month preparing for this performance and deserve massive gratitude for doing so, their performance was faultless, haunting and emotional. We should also admire those who worked hard behind the scenes to help make Friday as amazing as it was.
Share your photos of the event using the hashtag #WeAreHere on Twitter or Instagram or if you were unaware of the event, simply search the hashtag to catch up on what you missed.
To find out more and see more pictures from all across the UK, go to the website www.becausewearehere.co.uk
Here below are my photos of the #WeAreHere soldiers in Swansea.
Until next time,
Disclaimer: This was a paid collaborative post.