Early last month, an unusual tribute took place at Waterloo Station, London. How I would have liked to be there and see return to life the soldiers who died in the devastating Battle of the Somme in World War I!
Charlotte Higgins at the Guardian describes what the event was like.
There “were about 20 young men, immediately conspicuous because they were dressed in the dull-green uniforms of the first world war. They were just there: not speaking, not even moving very much. Waiting, expressionless, for who knows what.
“A small crowd gathered, taking photographs. A woman caught the eye of one of the men. She tried to speak to him. Without speaking or dropping his gaze, he pulled a small card out of his pocket and handed it to her.
‘Lance Corporal John Arthur Green,’ it read. ‘1st/9th Battalion, London Regiment (Queen Victoria’s Rifles). Died at the Somme on 1 July 1916. Aged 24 years.’
“There were similar scenes across the UK. … They gathered on the steps of the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow. They smoked roll-ups outside Bristol Temple Meads and marched, metal-tipped boots ringing, through Manchester Piccadilly. They stood in clumps by the entrance to Queen’s University, Belfast, and sat on the market cross in Lerwick, Shetland. …
“The event, which unfolded without advance publicity, can now be revealed as a work by Jeremy Deller, the Turner prize-winning artist …
“The participants were a volunteer army of non-professional performers, including social workers, farmers, security guards, farmers, shop assistants, students, labourers, flight attendants and schoolboys. All were sworn to secrecy, and rehearsals took place across the country over the past months. Deller worked with Rufus Norris, the artistic director of the National Theatre in London, and theatres throughout the UK to train the volunteer army.” More.
Photo: Alicia Canter for the Guardian
Soldiers at Waterloo station, London. Each represents a real person who died in the Battle of the Somme.