It has been a week since we opened here in London’s Queen Elizabeth Park and so much has happened.
The set up went extremely well and we finished ahead of schedule with the superb team from VolkerFitzpatrick overseeing the layout, Imagination, 1st Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment, DHL, SSAFA and FANY (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry) laying out the shrouds and helping us get everything set up in time for our grand opening on Thursday.
We received a staggering amount of global media coverage on our first day with BBC Breakfast broadcasting live from the site on our opening morning. Sky News sent a helicopter over and footage of the Shrouds was broadcast on TV Stations across Europe, the US, China, Russia, Asia, Canada and Australia. The Shrouds also featured in newspapers across the world, including the New York Times.
The first day
Five thousand visitors passed through on our first day and one of the first people through the door was a lady who had flown in all the way from Boston in the US just to see the Shrouds. Hundreds of school children also came to see the exhibition and asked Rob lots of interesting questions about his work and the Somme.
The schools programme
In addition to school visits our schools coordinator Vicky Price from UCL has been delivering workshops to children from local schools, which have been well received by both pupils and teachers alike:
“Thank you again for the wonderful workshops yesterday. Speaking to the children from both classes in the playground at the end of the day, it is clear that they are extremely excited about our visit today and they were able to tell me so much about The Battle of the Somme from the sessions with you.”
Words: Marc Hurrell, Ranelagh Primary School, Newham Pic: Randal Cremer Primary School in Hackney
On Sunday we held a remembrance service beside the Shrouds and thankfully the weather held for us as thousands of people arrived to participate in the ceremony which was led by the Rev’d Canon Flora Winfield, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s special representative to the Commonwealth.
The service included the last post, 2 minutes silence and Reveille along with readings from our patron actor Jim Carter and Lili Fairclough from Hackney – winner of the Never Such Innocence poetry competition (11-14 age group) – who read her poem ‘We Shot the Dreamers.’
Long time Shrouds supporter Steve Knightley from the group Show of Hands sang Requiem and Riflemen from 7 Rifles blew whistles one after the other around the Shrouds – the same sound that the men in the trenches would have experienced before they went over the top.
Rob receives an award from the Prime Minister
On Monday Rob was nominated for a Points of Light Award from the Prime Minister’s office. Points of Light are awarded daily to inspiring volunteers and we feel that this award isn’t just for Rob but for all of the amazing volunteers from who have helped us to set up and run the exhibition. We are also very grateful to our project partners Waitrose who have been supplying meals to our team and volunteers every day since we started setting up.
We meet a relative of the fallen
On Tuesday we had a special visit from a lady called Ann.
Almost exactly a year ago we posted a picture on our Facebook page of an unfinished hand mirror that Private John Murray G/13157 had started to make for his favourite sister. He told her he would finish it when he returned from the battlefields. It remains incomplete and John is represented among the Shrouds.
John’s favourite sister was Ann’s grandmother and she came to visit the Shrouds with the mirror and spoke to Rob about her family and how it felt to know that her Great Uncle has been remembered in this way.
A royal visitor
On Thursday morning we were extremely privileged to receive a visit from Her Royal Highness Princess Anne who came to see the Shrouds of the Somme and meet the team. She laid a shroud within the display and signed our visitors book followed by a visit to view the Shrouds from above in the ArcelorMittal Orbit.
A truly inspirational project
We have had so many amazing comments and stories and lots and lots of questions from visitors and it has been so inspiring to speak to people and hear what they have to say. The effects of World War One still resonate with so many of us – even one hundred years later. Many of our visitors have shed tears and it has been an honour to be involved with such an important and thought-provoking exhibition.
And we’re not finished yet….The Shrouds exhibition is open until 7pm on Sunday 18th November (last entry to site 6:30pm) with FREE ENTRY. Please do come and see it if you haven’t yet been and spread the word to family and friends.