A century after the end of the Great War, we can’t let rememberance become a hollow ritual.
We properly honour the past when we remember in new and vital ways. Imaginative and innovative projects show how.
The 888,246 ceramic poppies pouring out of the Tower of London in Paul Cummins and Tom Piper’s Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, seen by millions, started that process.
Peter Jackson’s film They Shall Not Grow Old that restores colour and speech to real footage of the war on the western front, is both a technical miracle and a shattering human spectacle.
Jeremy Deller wanted remembrance to be not an official event you attend but something that invades your reality, that shocks you into active sympathy. He developed it in his commemoration of the first day of the Battle of the Somme, in which groups of soldiers appeared across the country in shopping centres and railway stations, as if disinterred for some khaki day of the dead, singing: “We’re here because we’re here.”
Courtesy film director Danny Boyle, on beaches around the country, large portraits in sand of some of those who died will be raked by local communities. The images will be committed to the memory of the internet, before being washed away on the tide.
Britain’s tradition of remembrance and its “remember together” campaign, celebrates servicemen and women from all the allied nations who fought for Britain in the two world wars, alongside millions from pre-partition India, including modern-day Pakistan and Bangladesh, Poland, the Czech Republic, the Caribbean, Africa, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
This is as relevant if your parents came from Pakistan, Poland or Pofadder.
And it is prescient to recall that the words of Laurence Binyon’s Ode of Remembrance were written in the first month of the first world war, not the last.
Acknowledgement: The Guardian – Tim Adams / We properly honour the past when we remember in new and vital ways; Sunder Katwala / British Future.