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Paul Cummins was, up until this summer, a relatively unknown artist but this year he devised and created the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation, which currently occupies much of the area immediately around the Tower of London. Paul Cummins has often said that creating this monument to the centenary of the First World War wouldn’t have been possible without the support of people and businesses around the UK.
The installation has been extremely popular – it is currently a bigger draw than the Crown Jewels but Paul Cummins has remained in the background of the whole project, preferring his ceramic designs, set on the dramatic backdrop of the historic British Heritage site, to speak for themselves.
This huge art installation consists of 888,246 ceramic poppies, one for each British and Colonial fatality during the Great War. It stretches around the dry moat of the Tower of London, rising and falling around the entrances and exits, creating a vibrant display for all who visit. Each poppy has been handmade either by Paul himself, his team stationed at his studio in the East Midlands, or in two of the other ceramic studios helping to produce the poppies.
Following its unveiling at the Tower on the 5 August, volunteers from all over the UK, as well as all over the world, plant 50,000 poppies a day to ensure that all 888,246 will be in place by the time the installation finishes on Armistice Day, 11 November.
Cummins had the thought of creating this astonishing artistic display after looking through some old records in Chesterfield and reading the will of a Derbyshire man who joined up and died in Flanders – his words touched him and an idea sparked in his head.
Already known for his striking ceramic and wire mix installations displayed at prestigious venues such as the London Olympics, Chatsworth House and Blenheim Palace, to name a few – Paul Cummins Ceramics’ latest artistic achievement has drawn great attention right across the world.
Cummins remains staggered by the response that this installation has gained from the general public, and the comments from people from across the world who have travelled to plant a poppy and be a part of his vision and the memorial to those who gave their lives in The Great War. He says:
I’m astounded at how people have reacted to this installation – and how it has become more of a community project than anything else. People want to be a part of this – make sure they make their own mark, plant their own poppy – and to inspire people in this way, that makes me feel truly proud.
Additional to Paul’s installation, each night at twilight at the Tower the names of 180 serving military men are read out in a roll of honour to mark their sacrifice. The poppies have all been sold and will be sent to their new homes after 12November. 10% of the sale price from the sale of the poppies will be distributed to six service charities: Combat Stress, Coming Home, Help for Heroes, the Royal British Legion, SSAFA and the Confederation of Service Charties (Cobseo). After the costs for the production of the poppies has been recovered, the net proceeds will also be split between the six charities.
For more poppy images see Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red pulls thousands to the Tower
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