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February 2016

Devon children to join unique WWI art project

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15 Feb 2016 Plymouth Herald
By Martin Freeman

Children are being invited to bring alive the story of the bloodiest episode in British military history.

The challenge is to consider how their community was affected by the Battle of the Somme.

Every primary and second school in Devon is being asked to join in, part of a unique project marking the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War battle on July 1.

Artist Rob Heard with some of the 19,240 figurines for the Shrouds of the Somme project. Pictures by Steve Haywood

19,240 British soldiers, including at least 700 from the South West, were killed in the first four hours of the encounter.

All the school contributions will be shown at Exeter Library and Exeter Cathedral in the week of July 1, as part of the 19240 Shrouds of the Somme art project.

The centrepiece of that commemoration will be the laying out of 19,240 shrouded figures in Northernhay Gardens in the city.

Chris Lorimer, of the Shrouds project committee, said he hoped schools would engage with their communities and unearth links with the battle or the Great War.

“We are hoping they will find information, stories and photos from families whose relatives were directly affected,” he said.

Schools are particularly being asked to put together a short video or self-running presentation specific to their community and the Somme.

The twin goals are for children to learn about the war and leave a legacy for future generations.

“It will be a fascinating project that could really help to illuminate history and leave a lasting legacy for future generations to understand what impact it had on the history of the world they live in, not just on a national and international level but on a local and community level too,” said Mr Lorimer.

“The first day of the Battle of the Somme was one of the most dreadful in British history and a significant number of those who fell were from the Devonshire regiment. We hope that the Devon schools’ projects will help to commemorate those lives.”

Rob Heard, an artist from Somerset, and Exeter folk singer Steve Knightley conceived the project. Mr Heard is making each of the shrouds for the 12-inch figures.

The installation will be revealed at 7:30am on July 1, 100 years to the minute after the first whistle was blown to tell the men to go ‘over the top’.

The project is also raising money for the the Exeter Foundation, a charity linking the city rugby club and business to help good causes, and military charities.

Schools who enter will also be able to view the 19240 Shrouds of the Somme Project on Tuesday July 5 and raise money for the charities, getting an individual shrouded figure in return.

Those in years 9 and above will be able to watch a documentary of the battle at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum.

Find out more at 19240 For Schools

BBC News report Jan 2016

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Shrouds of the Somme figurines mark WW1 battle anniversary (BBC News)
26 January 2016

Rob Heard WW1 figurines projectEach wooden figurine has a shroud sewn onto it by the artist (Image copyright Steven Haywood)

An artist has set out to create thousands of figurines in memory of soldiers killed during the first four hours of the Battle of the Somme.

Rob Heard is hand-stitching shrouds onto 19,240 wooden figures to represent each man who died in the notorious World War One battle.

He aims to complete the project before the 100th anniversary of the British Army’s “bloodiest day” on 1 July.

Mr Heard said it was a “mammoth task” but he was confident he would succeed.

So far, about 5,600 have been made, with 100 figurines completed each day.

After completing each figure, Mr Heard, from Washford, Somerset, crosses a name off a list of those who died.

‘Very intensive’

“It’s very important that each one is associated with a name and I have all the names here on a board, alphabetically listed.

“As I go through the process of putting the figures within shrouds I cross the name off but it’s vitally important it gets associated with the name because the individual gets lost in the numbers.”

Battle of the Somme figurines - list of soldiers who diedEach figurine is linked to a soldier who died in the first four hours of the Battle of the Somme
Image copyright Steven Haywood
Rob Heard with WW1 figurinesArtist Rob Heard has completed 5,600 figurines so far
Image copyright Steven Haywood

“I can do it, it’s not a laborious task – it’s like looking at the sea, you can do it for hours,” added Mr Heard.

“It’s very intensive and for me it can be quite painful, the way I go about it but I’m very doggedly confident I will get there.”

During the Battle of the Somme, 100,000 Allied soldiers went “over the top” to face the German army on the slopes around Thiepval and Beaumont Hamel in the valley of the River Somme.

The figurines are set to go on display at Northernhay Gardens in Exeter and may also go on tour around the country.

Rob Heard WW1 figurines projectThe aim is to complete the project for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme
Image copyright Steven Haywood
Rob Heard WW1 figurines projectMr Heard wanted to link each figure with a soldier who died in the early stages of the battle
Image copyright Steven Haywood

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