Lights Out One Last Time




Last night, 1,700 people attended a final concert from Westminster Abbey featuring poetry, music and speeches from the First World War, and the televised event proved an extraordinarily moving and powerful experience. The service of remembrance was conducted surrounding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

As lights were turned off across the nation to remember this most terrible of wars, a vast battery of lights fired a single beacon far into the night sky (as you can see, low cloud halted it for much of the time – I wonder how far it would have gone on a clear night).

To commemorate the centennial of Britain’s involvement in the First World War, ceramic artist Paul Cummins and stage designer Tom Piper have created a staggering installation of poppies planted in the moat of the Tower of London. Titled Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, the work consist of 888,246 red ceramic flowers—each representing a British or Colonial military fatality—that flow through grounds around the tower.

It’s surely the most fervent wish of everyone involved that lessons should be learned, but one hundred years later, as the war of attrition continues in the Middle East, it proves not the case.


4 comments on “Lights Out One Last Time”

  1. Brooke Lynne says:

    This works on so many levels–hauntingly beautiful and echoes the past (given the Tower’s history) while pointing out the horrors of today. Thank you.

  2. Mitch Snow says:

    Generally I’m not all that fond of installation art, but this is magnificent. And Brooke is entirely correct, the multiple layers of meaning associated with its location add some tremendous resonance to an already impressive work of art.

  3. Vivienne says:

    It is really depressing that there is still so much impersonal slaughter going on in the world that seemed to start with the First World War. I lit a candle last night but my heart was not really able to join in, given what is happening in Gaza and elsewhere. Had it been truly the war to end all wars it might have been worth even the absolute awfulness that it was.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    I only recently discovered that a great uncle would be represented by one of those poppies. His wife died in 1912 (ectopic pregnancy- don’t look it up) leaving him with two little girls. Their maternal grandmother took them in and the widower went overseas, only to be killed in France in 1916. In 1917 the girls’ maternal grandfather died. Here was a woman who over 6 years lost her eldest daughter, her son-in-law and her husband. No wonder I remember her chiefly as a black shape. It was putting these details together (no one ever tells kids anything) that brought home all the difficulties of life at that time.
    I really agree with Vivienne’s last sentence.

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