Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, marking the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War: 888,246 ceramic poppies, each poppy representing a British or colonial fatality during the First World War. Photos by Brett Lock
‘It was little more than a year ago that the ceramic artist, Paul Cummins, had the idea of crafting a clay poppy for every fallen soldier, planting the whole lot at the Tower of London and then selling them for charity.
He called it Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red, words written on the will of a soldier from his native Derbyshire who died in Flanders. But, first, he had to convince the Tower.
Some public organisations would probably still be holding committee meetings one year later, chewing over the health and safety implications. But the Tower authorities — a purposeful mix of distinguished old soldiers and hard-headed tourism experts — quickly grasped the idea.
The award-winning theatrical designer, Tom Piper, was recruited to bring the vision to life. A factory was set up in Derby and 50 unemployed locals hired to make the poppies, while two specialist potteries, in Warwickshire and Stoke, were also invited to help.
Rebuffed in his attempts to raise any support from Government and the usual arts bodies (how silly they look now), Paul Cummins had to take out a £1 million high-interest loan just to bring his idea to life.
But it is not just the crowds along the walls which have been remarkable. There is an equally impressive human story in the moat.
For this project has now attracted some 30,000 volunteers. That is almost half the number for the entire 2012 London Olympics. And they are vital because it has required a citizen army to plant nearly a million poppies in a matter of weeks. Another one will be needed in the weeks ahead to uproot them all and send the same poppies on their way to the people who have paid £25 for each one.’
And the photos below are taken by Chris Radburn