Volunteers led by Northern Stage were part of a UK-wide event that took place today, 1 July 2016, as a modern memorial to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. Commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary, the work was conceived and created by Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller in collaboration with Rufus Norris, Director of the National Theatre.
The specially commissioned event saw around 1500 voluntary participants dressed in First World War uniform appear unexpectedly in locations across the UK. Northern Stage was one of 27 organisations which collaborated on the work, called ‘we’re here because we’re here’.
It was produced by Birmingham Repertory Theatre and the National Theatre, working in close collaboration with partners including: Lyric Theatre Belfast, Manchester Royal Exchange, National Theatre of Scotland, National Theatre Wales, Northern Stage, Playhouse Derry-Londonderry, Salisbury Playhouse, Sheffield Theatres and Theatre Royal Plymouth.
The participants who walked the streets today were a reminder of the 19,240 men who were killed on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Each participant represented an individual soldier who was killed that day. The work is partly inspired by tales of sightings during and after the First World War by people who believed they had seen a dead loved one.
Participants wore historically accurate uniforms, representing 15 of the regiments that suffered losses in the first day of the Battle. The soldiers did not speak, but at points throughout the day would sing the song ‘we’re here because we’re here’, which was sung in the trenches during the First World War. They handed out cards to members of the public with the name and regiment of the soldier they represented, and, where known, the age of the soldier when he died on 1 July 1916.
One of the North East volunteers is 38 year old John Taylor from Benton in Newcastle. John served with the 1st Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (1RRF) and the Royal Artillery, his father also served in the RNF and 1RRF and his Great Granddad, William Edward Atkinson served his country during WW1.
Jeremy Deller said: "I wanted to make a contemporary memorial to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, one that moved around the UK with an unpredictability in which the participants took the work directly to the public.”
Rufus Norris, Director of the National Theatre, said: “This work by Jeremy Deller is a truly national piece of theatre and is a powerful way to remember the men who went off to fight 100 years ago. I also hope it will serve as a catalyst to strengthen ties with theatres and communities across the UK.”
Lorne Campbell, Artistic Director of Northern Stage, said: “This has been a tremendous project to be involved in, bringing together a large group of participants from all walks of life to mark one of the great tragedies of the First World War. ‘we’re here because we’re here’ is a beautiful and subtle remembrance of the ordinary men who gave their lives in the senseless slaughter of the Somme. I hope this will be a memorable moment for all participants and audiences who encounter the performance.”
You can see images from the project nationally on the #wearehere website here: https://becausewearehere.co.uk
View images from across Tyne and Wear here:
See video from BBC Newcastle here:
The project was supported by: Aberystwyth Arts Centre, The Belgrade Theatre, Bolton Octagon, Bristol Old Vic, Storyhouse, Left Coast, Leicester Curve, Nuffield Theatre, Oldham Coliseum, Pontio, Shetland Arts, Sutton Coldfield College BMet, The Artrix Bromsgrove, The Garrick Lichfield and Volcano.
Listen to audio of the company singing here:
Published on 01/07/2016 19:00:17