Today marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme and to commemorate this the Turner Prize winning artist Jeremy Deller created the performance art project We Are Here. In conjunction with 28 theatres throughout the UK actors and volunteers, dressed in a variety of WWI uniforms, placed themselves in central locations as a reminder of the human cost of that battle - 19,240 British boys and men died on the first day alone.
Silent, save for an occasional rendition of We Are Here Because We Are Here, the actors waited for trains in the same manner that their forebears did, bringing home the fact that many of them didn’t get to make a return journey. Their only interaction with the public was to hand them a card with the name, rank and age of a soldier who had died 100 years ago today.
As many of my compatriots know and understand, the British are extremely reverential to their war dead and this project was a sincere and beautiful tribute to them. It also highlights the importance of art’s public role in the national arena, and how effecting it can be and draw us together (especially after a week that has been defined by division).
Those men and boys who gave their lives at the Somme shall forever be remembered and held in our hearts
Thousands of volunteers took part in a UK-wide event on Friday 1 July
2016, as a modern memorial to mark the centenary of the Battle of the
Somme. 19,240 men were killed on the first day of the battle in 1916 –
the bloodiest day in British military history.‘we’re here because we’re here’ saw around 1400 voluntary
participants dressed in First World War uniform appear unexpectedly in
locations across the UK. Each participant represented an individual
soldier who was killed on that day one hundred years before.