EAST have a new blog and this one will therefore no longer be updated on a regular basis. To visit the new blog to find out about exhibitions and events click HERE.
Our latest exhibition "Between the Lines" reflects our response to the commemoration of the 1914-18 conflict.
This blog will focus on stories behind the work by the E.A.S.T artists as well as looking at other artistic and cultural commemorations around the UK that relate to WWI.
One of the books I received this Christmas was Shepard’s War, E.H.Shepard The Man Who Drew Winnie-The-Pooh compiled by Patrick Campbell, Shepard’s great grandson-in-law.
Shepard joined the Royal Artillary in December 1915, just four days after his thirty sixth birthday, and the book shows illustrations he made whilst on active service. As I was reading through, I saw an illustration of the devastated French village, Zillebeke, drawn in November 1917. I’d come across the name Zillebeke when I was researching for Between the Lines. On that occasion I had been reading an unpublished account by a soldier who had been part of the British Expeditionary Force sent to France in the summer of 1914. This soldier had been injured in 1915, repatriated and returned to barracks where he had written about his experiences, not expecting to see further action. Unfortunately this wasn’t to be and he died on the Somme in 1916.
I looked back to my research and re-read the following passsage:
“….. That night we were called away, another regiment took our place, and were told to go and reinforce the guards at Zillebeke, a little village to the right, we being at Zonnebeke. The Guards had been told to attack at daybreak. We marched most of that night to different positions, and when morning broke the Guards started attacking.
“Their attack lasted practically till noon, at which time we got the order to attack a position between the Guards Brigade and the Brigade on our right, our objective an old schoolhouse about a mile in front of us. We started, and directly they spotted us we had the heaviest shell fire rained at us since the start of the war. Nevertheless, I am proud to say that the regiment never wavered but swept on in a line till we were nearly within charging distance of the remains of the schoolhouse. There, on account of the machine gunfire from the houses, and also on account of our thinning numbers, we halted in a slight dip of the hill and waited for the reserves to come up.
“I looked round to see how Dick had fared and was more than glad to see him just behind me, although his face was drawn tense with emotion and excitement. He had lost his hat in the run across the open, but otherwise we were both alright. But we couldn’t see a sign of the other four belonging to our own section. The reserves came up, or to be more correct, what was left of them, and we were told to prepare to charge the schoolhouse about three hundred yards in front.
“Immediately we topped the rise they poured in a veritable rain of shells and machine guns, hundreds of them, going for all they were worth from every nook or hole in the schoolhouse. How any human being lived through it I don’t know. I cannot describe my feelings during that time. But I had my eyes on those guns pointing out of the schoolhouse, and I don’t believe that I knew anything of what was going on round about me. I gave myself up for lost, never expecting to come out of that inferno alive, and merely ran like the very devil in the hopes of getting to the schoolhouse alive and killing somebody before I was killed myself. Don’t think that I am trying to show how brave I was. I am not made of the hero quality but in an affair like that you seem gripped by a desire to get there at all costs.
“I suppose that knowledge that you are practically running to your death unhinges your mind and I believe to this day that had we had to do another attack next day I should have gone raving mad. It’s the nervous tension of it that saps your strength, and as I say, had we had another attack or anything with nervous strain attached to it I would now be in a lunatic asylum with an unhinged mind…..”
Here are a couple of pictures which I took of Janette during the filming yesterday at the Corinium Museum, Cirencester.
She began with June’s piece “The Thorny Fence”. Unfortunately the cameraman, Matt, was not happy because the sunshine through the window was affecting the picture so we moved the exhibit and Janette and Valerie had to begin again.
In the second picture Janette is speaking about her own work “Treasure, hope and friendship” and Lady Dorrien-Smith’s hospital bag fund. This all went smoothly and by the end of the morning Janette was becoming a real “pro.”
In the foreground of the picture on the right, you can see the edge of the table and all the sketchbooks.
Last Sunday my poppy from Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red arrived. It came in a special box with a certificate of authenticity and a booklet Your piece of history.
The booklet highlights Paul Cummins, the ceramic artist who had the idea, the men and women from Derby, Stoke-on-Trent and Aylesbury who made the poppies, Tom Piper, the theatre designer who created the instillation in the moat and some significant dates from 17th July when the first poppy was planted by the longest serving Yeoman Warder to Armistice Day.
The booklet also contains information about the six charities which shared the proceeds from the sale on the poppies.
The Confederation of Service Charities, www.cobseo.org.uk
Combat Stress www.combatstress.org.uk
Coming Home www.coming-home.org.uk the charity which provides specially adapted houses for seriously injured service men and women.
Help for Heroes www.helpforheroes.org,uk
The British Legion www.britishlegion.org.uk
SSAFA, formerly the Soldiers,
Sailors, Airmen and Families Association www.ssafa.org.uk
which provides care and support for Veterans and their families throughout the
Two years ago as I began the research for the E.A.S.T. World War One exhibition, which would later be called Between the Lines, I bought a poppy. After Remembrance Day that year I put the poppy on the wall in my workroom and used it as a motive for the designs on the first few pages of my sketchbook. I knew the poem In Flanders Fields by the Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae but had to search for information about how the poppy became a symbol of Armistice Day.
An American academic, Moina Michael, was so inspired by the poem that she made poppies from red silk which were brought to England by a French woman, Anne Guerin. In 1921, when the (Royal) British Legion was formed, 9 million poppies were sold, raising £106,000. At first the poppies were made from silk or paper and a price was set for them but in 1922 a factory was opened in the Old Kent Road, London, where disabled servicemen made the paper poppy with four petals and a leaf which is common today and donations were invited for each one.
This year, the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, the moat of the Tower of London has been filled with handmade ceramic poppies forming the installation by the artist Paul Cummins, Blood Swept Land and Seas of Red. I visited the Tower in the middle of October and watched as volunteers “planted” poppies in the moat by Traitor’s Gate. Paul Cummins said “It’s not really my project any more. It’s everybody’s”. When you equate each poppy with one British and Commonwealth soldier and then think of men from other parts of the world who also never returned, it is quite a sobering experience. The last of the 888,246 poppies will be planted tomorrow, 11th November.
n.b. The poppy I bought in 2012 is on the final page of my sketchbook.
There are many ways to commemorate the WW1 anniversary but I was surprised to find that when I went to a local cider and beer festival that by purchasing a drink I could support a local WW1 themed charity - Stow Maries Aerodrome, which is very near to my home town is the most complete WW1 aerodrome in the country. It means that we often get unusual aircraft flying overhead.