Poppies for Sale – the art of remembrance

Last Tuesday was Armistice Day: the 11th November, when we fall silent for two minutes at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of each year, to remember the day when the guns fell silent, ending the First World War. It’s the time when we remember people who have died in all wars and conflicts around the world.

My sessions focussed on the art of remembrance. The nation has been captivated by the art installation ‘The Blood Swept Lands and Fields of Red’, with 888,246 ceramic poppies planted in the moat of the Tower of London, created by artist Paul Cummins, and stage designer Tom Piper. Each poppy represents a military death in the First World War, from Britain or its Empire.

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red


Around five million people have now queued to see the poppies. However, did you know that Paul is a local lad, and an art graduate from the University of Derby? Most of the poppies were made in Paul’s factory in Derby, and the title of the installation came from a Will left in the top pocket of a soldier from Chesterfield.

Here’s some more local art, created at Newholme Hospital to commemorate the centenary of the start of World War One.

And here’s my addition to our remembrance, in poetry, inspired by the things said by patients, staff and volunteers in the hospitals last week.

Poppies for Sale

Poppies for sale
All sizes – paper ones,
Enamel ones,
Big plastic ones
To stick on your car radiator.
They used tractor engines for tanks;
Relied on plough horses and mules
To bring the soldiers food and drag their guns.

Veterans didn’t like to talk about it.
My Dad fought in the First World War.
Round here, the farmers and quarrymen were needed,

To keep going – stayed at home.
The war started fast – and ended slow,
Stuck in trenches, between the shifting mud
The craters of no-man’s land.

And it goes on.
Missing in action.
There’s a war memorial
To mark those who have fallen
Since 1945. There’s a lot of space left on the wall
We shudder to think
Where and when they will die next.

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