Alleyn Club Yearbook 2017

#We are here OA Jeremy Deller’s (77- 84) powerful nationwide memorial event July 2016 saw thousands of

volunteers take part in a modern memorial to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. Joint Vice- school captain, Cameron Forbes, writes about his experience taking part in the Living Memorial. On 1st July 2016 I took part in an event to mark the 100th anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Organised by Rufus Norris of the National Theatre and Turner prize-winning artist and OA Jeremy Deller – the event #we are here was a human memorial of First World War battle, sending silent soldiers into cities and towns.

silence and made their presence felt. The effect on the general public was moving, haunting and even reduced people to tears as they realised the significance of why we were there. My own journey for the day started at 7am at the National Theatre along with Dan Norton-Smith to get into costume. My group of 30 then marched to Waterloo to start our performance. We had to stay in character at all times, with no bags, no phones, no food, no talking, and no interacting with each other. We had been trained to look bored, staring silently off into the distance. If someone questioned what we were doing, we silently handed out a card each bearing the name of a soldier who died at the Somme on 1st July 1916. The journey of our ‘squadron’ took us to Ipswich where we moved silently among the civilians in the busy city centre, before returning to Westfield shopping centre for the finale of the piece which involved 500 of us singing to the public.

Occasionally our group broke into song, singing “We’re here because we’re here” to the tune of Auld Lang Syne. The first day of the Battle of the Somme was and still is the deadliest day in the history of the British Army, with almost 20,000 soldiers having lost their lives in just 24 hours. The director explained the importance of keeping the whole project secret, so I told no one what the plans were, not even my parents. The idea for the event came from reports that after the 141 horrendous days of the battle, many families reported seeing their “ghost” soldier family member - in a crowd, for example, or on a passing bus. As young men in 2016, it felt incredibly haunting to realise that 100 years ago we could have been at the Somme ourselves, and each of us might not have returned to our

1,400 male volunteers dressed as First World War soldiers appeared at transport hubs throughout the UK, dressed in the uniforms of 15 different regiments that suffered losses on the first day of the battle. From Belfast to Plymouth, to Glasgow Manchester, Snowdon, and Salisbury - the volunteers marched from place to place and then sat or stood in

families and lives. Cameron Forbes Joint School Vice-Captain.

This link will take you to a YouTube video about the event and Jeremy Deller’s planning of it.


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