Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

There's an installation on the grounds of the Tower of London right now of thousands of ceramic poppies - each representing a British soldier killed during WWI. 2014 marks 100 years since the start of what is known as the Great War, which changed how the very act of war was viewed. This was not a glorious thing but something extremely brutal and unforgiving. 

I've been watching a series on BBC called 'Our World War' where stories from soldier's letters, diaries and memoirs are taken and turned into an incredibly polished modern-style 'drama'. But it's not a drama. These are actual accounts of the men who were there and the things they saw and did and survived - or didn't survive in far too many cases. 

I am incredibly grateful to live in and come from countries where war is relegated to the history books and the closest it comes to 'touching' me is in the form of headlines and breaking news. But I appreciate that stepping on a land mine, being bombed in your sleep or watching a family member get shot is a reality for far too many people in the world.

The impact of this particular installation is the sheer volume of red - a stark reminder of the blood spilled in the war that changed our attitude towards it. These poppies are available to purchase and I've done so.

Whilst the money goes to charity my reason for buying one was deeper than that. My grandmother was a war bride in the second World War and my grandfather a soldier. One day the history books will probably look at both wars as one with a gap of a few years in between. I know the timeline and influence of history shrunk as I began to learn more about what led to each and how the end of WWII created the Cold War and how every act of violence seems to be somehow connected to the one before it.

I bought a poppy to support a fellow artist who shared a vision so powerfully that it will touch thousands and remind us of how fortunate we are but also, how much we still have to learn. 

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