Picture the scene. A London landmark surrounded by thousands of deep red flowers stretching as far as the eye can see. Sound familiar?
The poppies at the Tower of London have captured public interest since the first few were planted in the summer. The installation, called Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, sees 888,246 ceramic poppies progressively fill the Tower’s famous moat. The poppy is, of course, well known as the symbol of remembrance. Combine this with the fact that each flower represents a British soldier killed during WW1, and it becomes a simple yet powerful way to commemorate Remembrance Day and the WW1 centenary.
The impact of the installation is breathtaking. The poppies create not only a spectacular display visible from all around the Tower, but also a location for personal reflection – and it’s attracting people in their thousands.
Out of all the activity taking place in the centenary year, this stands out. The buzz on site, in the media and online (check out #TowerPoppies to see the comments and stunning photos) is remarkable. Crowd control has been put in place to manage the sheer amount of people visiting the site. The volunteer places to plant and then remove the poppies have all been filled. The poppies themselves, available to buy online with some of the proceeds shared equally among six service charities, have all sold out!
This week alone has seen the buzz around the installation reach fever pitch. Boris Johnson lent his voice to a campaign to extend Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red through to the New Year. The Chancellor has just announced he will waive the VAT from the sale of the ceramic flowers, with the charities now set to benefit to the tune of £1.1 million.
The crowds of visitors from across the UK and beyond viewing the poppies and spending time in the city provide a timely boost to London’s visitor economy. More importantly, it’s a straightforward yet compelling way to raise awareness of the lives lost during WW1, in the centenary year. Simplicity at its best.