In 2014, at the Centenary of the start of World War I, Tom Piper and Paul Cummins created the installation ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red.’ It featured 888,246 ceramic poppies, pouring out of the Tower of London in a tide of shocking red. Each symbolised a British Military fatality in the Great War. This year, the ‘There But Not There‘ figures, originally created by the artist Martin Barraud, will be installed in many communities across the country. They will represent the Fallen and commemorate the Armistice. Mandy Carr explains how St. George’s Church in Sevenoaks Weald has created a film resource to introduce their art installation.
I had been moved by the installation of ‘There But Not There’ in Penshurst Church and wrote a blog on this website about it. At first, there were plans to roll it out locally and, as we are close to Penshurst, St. George’s was approached to see if we might be interested in being involved. We agreed immediately and became one of the founding partners. This modest plan for expansion, however, was soon overtaken in a tide of national enthusiasm. A charity ‘Remembered’ was formed and now ‘There But Not There’ has spread, not only in this country, but overseas too, with over 2,500 communities becoming involved. (For more details of the project see http://www.therebutnotthere.org.uk ).
In Weald Parish we have sixteen names on our war memorial but we have another two men who died after the war of their injuries so we have eighteen figures due to take their place in St. George’s for our Remembrance weekend. It’s difficult to contemplate the impact on a small, rural community like ours, until we see their silhouettes seated in our pews. Suddenly it becomes real and when we see their name blocks by them – family names that are still heard around the community – we begin to understand the immense loss a little better.
To take that connection with the past further, a few of us decided to create a project that would tell the story of one of the soldiers. It started with a poem called ‘Distance’ written by Elizabeth Miller, one of our congregation. This became the framework for our short film. Letters played an important part in keeping morale up in the trenches and we focused on the correspondence between a young couple as they contemplate what to write and what to stay quiet about in order to keep their hopes and dreams alive.
I then wrote a screenplay around the poem and Julia Downing, our Director of Music, wrote the score. We enlisted the talents of two young actors. Katie Beddoe plays ‘Anne’, a wife expecting her first baby and Matthew Carr, plays ‘Tom’, her husband called up to serve his country. We shot the film in the village and were grateful for all the local help we received, (which is essential when making a film with no budget.)
What I found particularly difficult about this project was that ‘Tom’ is played by my son. I had an afternoon of filming him dying on the battlefield and then had to spend hours editing it. As he is the same age of many soldiers who volunteered or who were called up in World War I, including one on our memorial, it was very poignant and emotional for me.
Although the film is very sad we wanted it to be about love, hope and longing and what makes us human in a dehumanising environment. It is a story that communities up and down the country will relate to and it is intended as a tribute to the Fallen everywhere. We hope it will be used widely during the Commemoration period. It can watched here and downloaded from Vimeo https://vimeo.com/290548484