Since July 2014, the historic Tower of London has seen a gradual transformation through the colour red. Armistice Day marked the 100 year anniversary of World War 1 where the United Kingdom lost 888,246 British and Colonial soldiers.
The significance of this day was acknowledged in a spectacular fashion as artist Paul Cummins created a red ceramic poppy for each one of the fallen soldiers which were ‘planted’ and adorned in the evolving installation of the grounds of the Tower of London. The ‘Blood Swept Lands and Sea of Red’ art installation captured the hearts of the nation as each one of the 888,246 ceramic poppies were sold for 25 pounds each with the profits being evenly shared amongst six charities.
This art exhibition was a campaign to give each one of the fallen soldiers an individual acknowledgement. At the same time this spectacular display gave the tens of thousands of visitors to the Tower of London a physical and visual connection to the British lives that were lost 100 years ago.
The success of this brilliant visual display can be attributed to many things but all of them point to the one common factor, emotion. People were triggered by emotion whether it was pride, sadness, loss, patriotism. Whichever the emotion that this powerful display of ceramic poppies caused, it made people react both as individuals and as a communities.
The Blood Swept Lands and Sea of Red exhibition grew strength every day from it’s initial July beginning and led to many different positive reactions from the media and people of the United Kingdom:
Encouraging citizens to partake in Remembrance Day ceremonies
Promoting the message and wearing of the red poppy
Citizens sharing stories and photos of family members who died in World War 1
Displaying a sense of pride and acknowledgement for the existing armed forces
17,500 volunteers were involved in the installing of the poppies and 8,000 volunteers were involved in the dismantling of the display.
This campaign was so masterfully executed and delivered with the climatic ending with the installation by a 13-year old cadet of the final ceramic red poppy taking place on Remembrance Day.
Despite calls from the public to keep the display active at the Tower of London, Paul Cummins reiterated that this exhibiation was never designed for the long term and was created to instil a message.
This exhibition was about a relevant and emotional subject which instigated a connection to the people in the United Kingdom as well as people around the world. It was a powerful campaign and one that stimulated many of the senses.