THE SKY OF POPPIES was an Art Installation in Queensgate Shopping Centre that commemorated The battle of the Somme in 1916 and the men from Peterborough that died in that infamous and iconic battle in WWI.
Its now 2 years from its installation and the affects of the beautiful installation and the community project behind it still continue in the city today. People still talk to me about how their involvement in creating a poppy for the installation made them feel and how they fondly look back on those memories they still have when they walked into Queensgate and saw the result hanging ethereally from the sky.
I continually have people stop me in the street calling me the Poppy lady and they ask questions as well as wanting to remember how they felt seeing the poppies, each of which represented a thousand casualties on all sides during the battle.
A week before the 1st July saw a fierce artillery barrage planned to destroy the enemy trenches so that when the men went over the top there would be little opposition left to meet them. It was believed by the high command that it would be ‘like a walk in the park’ such was their belief in the shelling that they had ordered. Those in the trenches thought otherwise. The artillery barrage failed mainly because the German trenches had been built 30 foot deep and also because it ended too soon giving time for machine guns to be set up ready for the advance. Carnage followed. Nearly 20,000 British dead on the first day, 60% of the officers dead within an hour or so of climbing from the trenches, 1 million casualties on all sides. 131 men from Peterborough died at The Somme and their names that surrounded the poppies are probably what most people ask me about. These men were people with real lives and not just names on a cold stone, they deserve to be remembered.
Hundreds of people from the area were involved in creating the poppies and each has a special memory of their experience and the stories that were told during the poppy workshops where Eve Marshall Artisan Felter taught the participants to make the poppies. It has been fantastic to meet so many who were enthusiastic about being involved in such a large scale art project.
For me the stories of people, places and events of WWI and the names of these men and their personal stories inspire all of the work I have created in my series of work commemorating WWI that continues. I hope this year to share some of the stories of the local men and some of the events of WWI on social media, youtube and in my blogs so please look out for these in the coming months and SHARE them to create a Cascade of Storytelling.
Please see more of the stories on my website www.charronpugsleyhill.com
Photos by Paul Martin