Artistic salute from Derby graduate

A Derby graduate artist has installed more than 880,000 ceramic poppies at the Tower of London in honour of the WW1 fallen

The first plantings of 888,246 ceramic poppies – one for each British and Colonial military fatality of the First World War – created by a University of Derby graduate artist have been unveiled at the Tower of London today. 

The evolving installation, entitled ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’, is by ceramic artist Paul Cummins, 36, from Chesterfield – a 2010 BA (Hons) Crafts degree graduate of the University and a current PhD student – in partnership with stage designer Tom Piper. It is based in the Tower’s dry moat.

Paul and his team, a number of them also students and graduates of the University of Derby, created the 888,246 ceramic poppies at a studio on Derby’s Pride Park industrial park.

August 5 has been chosen for the installation’s official unveiling as it marks 100 years since the first full day of Britain’s involvement in the First World War. 

The poppies’ ranks will gradually be added to until the moat is filled, with a last one planted on Tuesday November 11, or Armistice Day (the armistice ending hostilities on the Western Front during the First World War occurred on 11 November 1918).

The spectacular display will provide a place for personal reflection on the First World War  and an inspiring setting for educational activities.

Today Paul said: “This project has been a huge undertaking and will have taken ten months by the time of its completion on November 11. Thousands of poppies have been fired and glazed, which will eventually cover an area of 16 acres.

“I was fortunate enough to have a great team working with me, to ensure that everything went according to plan and to deadline. It is a national project but, I feel, has been very much ‘hand-made’ in Derby.

“The project has taken on a life of its own. I didn’t realise just how big or significant it would become but I really hope people like it and I feel they’ve already taken it to their hearts.”

Professor John Coyne, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Derby, added: ‘We are immensely proud of Paul’s achievement with this national tribute. It’s wonderful to see that so much of the skills and resources he needed to create this significant project were found right here in Derby.

“Paul has continually built on his successes, from his time as a prize-winning student and in the four years since his graduation, not least with the thousands of ceramic flowers he also produced as part of the London 2012 Olympics’ Cultural Olympiad.”

After November 11, each poppy will be sold (for £25 plus postage and packaging) and ten per cent of profits donated to six services’ charities, including Help for Heroes and the Royal British Legion. It’s hoped sales could raise millions of pounds. To register to purchase a poppy from August 5 go to the Tower of London website at www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon.

Throughout the 99 days of the poppies’ installation period, each day at twilight  a ‘Roll of Honour’ of 180 military personnel killed during the First World War will be  read out, followed by a single bugler playing ‘The Last Post’ bugle call.

Members of the public can nominate names for the Roll of Honour, each week, on a ‘first come’ basis. Names can be submitted from August 5 via the Tower of London website.

For more on the poppies’ project and Paul Cummins’ links to Derby see www.derby.ac.uk/alumni/graduates/collegeofarts/paulcummins   

Further information on Arts at the University of Derby can be found at website www.derby.ac.uk/art-and-design

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