Seeing the installation of poppies at the Tower of London is where it really all began. Like most people I had seen the art exhibition on the television and in the national papers and I really wanted to see it with my own eyes.
The major art installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red at the Tower of London, marked one hundred years since the first full day of Britain’s involvement in the First World War. Created by artists Paul Cummins and Tom Piper, 888,246 ceramic poppies progressively filled the Tower’s famous moat between 17 July and 11 November 2014. Each poppy represented a British military fatality during the war.
The poppies encircled the iconic landmark, creating not only a spectacular display visible from all around the Tower but also a location for personal reflection. The scale of the installation was intended to reflect the magnitude of such an important centenary and create a powerful visual commemoration.
All of the poppies that made up the installation were sold, raising millions of pounds which were shared equally amongst six service charities.
The Stoneclough Remembrance Day Poppy Display was inspired by this breath taking display.
I was fortunate enough to get to see them due to a group of people coming together and helping me.
It started with me looking online for train fares down to St Pancras where I quickly realised that I could not justify paying over £200 to get down to London and back in the same day.
I posted about how frustrated I was on Facebook where unbeknown to me my very good friend Mick Parent, who I worked with in Iraq, who resides in Australia had seen the post and contacted his mother in law Jane who works for the East coast train line.
Jane contacted me and said she could get me to St Pancras and back in First Class free of charge but I would have to go from Manchester Piccadilly to Sheffield and then down to St Pancras. As you can imagine I was ecstatic about this and told several parents at my sons school (St Saviours of Ringley) who subsequently arranged transport to drop me off at the tram station so I didn’t have to leave my car, and also arranged to pick me up from Piccadilly train station because I wouldn’t be arriving back until gone nine in the evening.
Due to these generous people I did get to see the Tower of London ceramic poppy display to which I cannot express in words how breathtaking it really was and the vision of them will stay with me forever.
So with the Tower Poppies vision stuck in my head I wanted to do something within Stoneclough for Remembrance Day. The basic idea was to create four 8ft poppies to display in the local church of St Saviours and then get the school children involved by them making their own poppies and planting them next to the 8ft ones.
The poppies were placed on the front grass area either side of the path leading into St Saviours church and with the community getting fully behind the project from senior generations to the young ones making their own poppy to place down we recreated our very own Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red and in the process raised over £9000 for the Royal British Legion.
Following on from the success of the Stoneclough Poppy Display, Claypool Primary school in Horwich Bolton contacted me asking if it would be possible for me to attend a Year 6 class and educate the children on why we have Remembrance Day, what the poppy stands for and why its important to carry on the tradition. Also in relation to this visit, the school wanted me to help the children make their own miniature metal poppy so that they could place them in their very own Remembrance and contemplation garden in the school grounds.
This required me to redesign a poppy that could easily be put together by children in a safe manor. The design was actually a simple one based on Meccano. I designed each poppy kit with four petals, a nut and bolt, two washers and a stem. All the children had to do was manipulate the four petals into a unique one off shape individual to them, paint the petals red and the centre bolt black and put the whole thing together. The school project was a huge success.
Leading on from the school project I started receiving messages via social media asking me if they could purchase their own miniature metal poppy. I already had the design in place as well as the metal manufacturer so it was an easy transition. The natural progression from poppies to various other flowers was again a transition that was easily taken.
Even though our portfolio of flowers is growing all the time, the most popular one still remains The Poppy.
This humble flower that means so much to the general public has ended up in some fantastic places with amazing stories attached to them.
One particular favourite of mine is the poppies that were purchased so that they may be placed at glider landing zones in Arnhem. The poppies successfuly made it and were placed at locations Ginkle Heath DZ-Y, Renkum DZ-X and Wolfheze LZ-S and LZ-L, as well as Ooosterbeek and Arnhem.