Iconic Poppies sculpture a huge success in Derby

Poppies: Weeping Window sculpture with visitors

Credit: Gideon Mendel

Tue 25 Jul 2017

The iconic Poppies: Weeping Window at Derby Silk Mill has been a tremendous draw for visitors of all ages and backgrounds, from across the UK and around the world. Between 9 June and 23 July a staggering 206,401 visitors were recorded as having viewed the sculpture by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper.

Poppies: Weeping Window was presented in Derby as part of a UK-wide tour by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts organisation for the First World War centenary. As with all 14-18 NOW projects, the presentation of Weeping Window aims to engage people across the UK with the centenary of the First World War. Derby City Council was lead partner for the project and its staff were instrumental in bringing this thought-provoking work of art to the city. Venue partner, Derby Museums were exceptional hosts and Derby’s stunning Silk Mill enjoyed a wealth of new visitors, as a result of the installation.

The touring sculpture has given thousands at Derby the opportunity to access and experience the poppies first hand, which for many locally, wasn’t a possibility when the sculpture was part of the installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red at HM Tower of London in 2014. Derby as a whole played a vital part in production during the First World War with Rolls-Royce developing the Eagle Engine at the request of the government to power allied aircraft.

Councillor Amo Raju, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Culture and Tourism, said: “The success of Weeping Window at The Silk Mill has been phenomenal for the city of Derby. It’s a truly remarkable sculpture which local people and visitors across the country and worldwide have taken to their hearts, in the spirit of remembrance for the sacrifices made during the First World War. We are delighted that so many people have been touched by this moving tribute and wholeheartedly thank all the staff and volunteers involved for their passion and dedication to making Poppies: Weeping Window an outstanding success.”

Tony Butler, Executive Director at The Silk Mill commented, “Hosting the Poppies at Derby Silk Mill has been an amazing experience. I’ve been struck by the reverence and quiet contemplation which every visitor has shown. The notion that each poppy represents a life has really resonated and has been viscerally felt by visitors.”

Everyone from school children, to those who can remember more recent wars have been taking an interest in the sculpture and it’s been quite a talking point for the city. As well as the thousands of visitors from Derby and the East Midlands region, many have travelled from further afield such as London and Scotland. There were also many visitors from all over the world including Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, Uganda and the USA.

Many visitors chose to leave personal comments on a dedicated exhibition wall in Derby Silk Mill.

Here are some of the messages on display:

‘A beautiful and poignant way to remember the lives lost 1914-18. A fitting show of remembrance but I fear that in today’s current climate, we may never learn’ – Ruth Hays, Derby

‘My grandad, George Clarke (of Mansfield), served all 4 years. Lucky for me, he made it back or I wouldn’t be here!’ – Patricia Hull, North Caroline, USA

‘This was my first time to Derby. I’m enjoying the display, hope to come again’ – Rutwik, India

‘Loving memories of my husband Frederick, aged 79 from loving wife Margaret (aged 90) – Mrs Haywood, Singapore.

‘Remembering everyone who have lost lives and currently in wars to keep us free and safe, thank you’ – Air family, Long Eaton

‘We must always remember and never repeat’ – Celia Robbins, Sydney

‘Remembering my great Grandfather, Teddy – declared M.I.A, RIP’

‘I have four ancestors who were killed, while serving the Commonwealth, in WW1. This is a fitting tribute to the fallen soldiers and a beautiful reminder for the generations who benefitted’ – Ross & Nicolette, NSW Australia

‘Thank you for the opportunity to silently reflect on all that was done for the freedom we enjoy today’ - M& L, Derby

‘My Dad, Harold, was 21 when he signed up, captured in France in the same year, spent the rest of the year in Polish P.O.W camps, nearly dying twice. His sweetheart, my Mum, Joan wrote letters to him, always ending with “still waiting”. She worked at Rolls Royce, here in Derby. True love, God bless them x’ – Di, South Normanton

There was also a lot of positive engagement on social media channels about the installation:

‘Saw it Friday evening. Beautiful when it's all lit up’ – Hannah Thompson

‘With only a week remaining of their presence in Derby, enthusiasm for #PoppiesTour shows no sign of abatement. Hundreds of cards like this on the walls @derbysilkmill, All with similarly moving sentiments @1418NOW’ – Tony Butler

‘Visited Derby Silk Mill to see the poppies tour today. What an awe inspiring site.’ – Graham March

As part of the 14-18 NOW, the UK arts programme for the First World War centenary, Poppies: Weeping Window will next be hosted by The National Assembly for Wales at the Senedd in Cardiff from 8 August – 24 September 2017.

Weeping Window is from the installation ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ – poppies and original concept by artist Paul Cummins and installation designed by Tom Piper – by Paul Cummins Ceramics Limited in conjunction with Historic Royal Palaces, originally at HM Tower of London 2014.