|The 24th (Tyneside Irish) Batallion Northumberland Fusiliers in the centre of Newcastle|
The Battle of the Somme
Nearly 20,000 men died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. WW1 on the 1st July 1916. On top of the terrible death toll, there were more than 30,000 casualties. Many sustained life changing injuries.
How can we possibly remember this and pay tribute to these, mainly young men, who were slaughtered in the service of their country? Well, with 1418NOW Turner prize winning artist Jeremy Deller in collaboration with Rufus Norris, the Director of the National Theatre, has created a powerful engaging piece of participatory theatre, which does just this.
Not just a genius concept, this is an outstanding piece of original live visual art and its effect is simply the most moving tribute to these men. It connects with its audience at a visceral level.
|Blue skies at Baltic square|
The Somme – ‘We’re Here Because We’re here.’
The piece called “We’re here because we’re here” has given hundreds of young people across the UK the chance to find out more about the Somme and in some cases discover the stories of family members who fought in the war.
|A moment of calm|
The volunteers became ‘ghost soldiers’ taking on the personas of the real men who died on that day. Dressed in authentic First World War uniforms, they represented 15 of the regiments that suffered losses on that first day of battle. The men appeared unexpectedly in locations across the UK.
They walked the streets of Newcastle and Gateshead interacting with each other, but otherwise silent. They rested at the Monument, travelled on the Metro and ate their lunch outside the Sage and the Baltic in the newest most modern part of our city.
|About to board the Metro|
The Somme – never forget
The faces of the lads in uniform, so similar to those local faces from a hundred years ago. I approached one the of the youngest. Private Hugh Lynch tipped his hat and gave me card with the name on it of the dead soldier he was representing.
|Private Hugh Lynch|
I collected more cards from the men. Private Edward McCoy, Private Martin May, Private Thomas Liddle, Private Patrick Maloney, Private John McGill, Private Patrick Kelly, Private Samuel Kelly, Private William Mathewson, Serjeant Patrick Butler.. They all died at the Somme on 1st July 1916.
|A piece of our history|
This simple yet astonishing effective work, is partly inspired by tales of sightings during and after the First World War of people who believed they had seen a dead loved one.
Our ghost soldiers were representing the 24th (Tyneside Irish) Batallion Northumberland Fusiliers. I’m no fan of Derek Acorah but there was something very otherworldly about the whole thing.
|Calm before the storm|
The soldiers of the Somme
I knew quite a lot about this period of history as I had the lead role in the Accrington Pals. This play by Peter Whelan play, explores the lives of the women left behind at home after this devastating period of our history.
|A face from the past?|
In conjunction with our very own Northern Stage, rarely have I seen something which merges theatre, visual art, history and contemporary society in such a simple, yet powerful way. I can only say well done to all involved with 1418NOW – you created something very special indeed.