November 11 is observed each year as Remembrance Day in the UK, or more generally as Armistice Day; to mark the end of hostilities during World War I. This year, as Europe commemorates the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, the UK first entered on August 5, 1914. This day will mark the completion of the popular art installation of ceramic poppies that has filled the grounds of the Tower of London; and was admired by the nation.
The installation ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’; that was created in the Tower’s famous dry moat has continued to grow throughout the summer until the moat was filled with 888,246 ceramic poppies, each poppy representing a British or Colonial military; the work was designed as a tribute to Britain’s World War I dead, the blood-red trench of ceramic poppies that circle the Tower of London have become a national phenomenon as Britons flocked to remember the countless fallen over many generations of war. Up to four million people – six percent of the country’s population – visited the exhibit. Today sees the majority of the installation leave its historical location.
The installation was a collaboration between ceramic artist Paul Cummins and stage designer Tom Piper; with the hand-sculpted flowers using 400 tons of clay, with 300 poppy-makers working for a year to manufacture the each item and 25,000 volunteers building the installation. Now that the project has reached its final day, however, the de-installation process will not begin until Wednesday, with an 11,000 people enlisted to complete the mammoth task of picking each poppy.
Yet 60 percent of respondents to a poll conducted by the Guardian were in favour of the installation remaining. Others weren’t such big fans: this included the British actress Sheila Hancock who stated on a talk show that “a tank should mow down the poppies and leave them shattered and broken like the bodies of the guys that died.” Yet politicians, including deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, have petitioned to keep the poppies in place after the deadline for its removal.
Prime Minister David Cameron has offered the work to remain, if only for as a temporary extension. “I think the exhibition of the poppies has really caught the public imagination, people have found that incredibly moving,” Cameron stated in response to its popularity “in a very short space of time become a much loved and respected monument.”
The poppies removed will be sent to those who purchased them for £25 each; with the so-called Weeping Window, with flowers spilling out of a tower window, and the Wave, which crashes over the entry bridge, remaining in place until at least the end of the month. The two sections of the installation will then embark on a museum tour of the country until 2018, which will conclude on the 100th anniversary of the war’s end, and then be installed in the permanent collection of the Imperial War Museum.
The £500,000 tour of the much loved work will be paid for by the government, using funds from fines resulting from the Libour banking scandal.