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Mel Bradley

80,000 people visit Shrouds of the Somme in Bristol

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swns_somme_bristol_24-700x400Bristol Cathedral hosted the breathtaking ‘Shrouds of the Somme’ during a week which marked both Armistice Day and the end of the Battle of the Somme.
19,240 hand-stitched shrouded figures each representing a serviceman of the British Empire who died on the first day of the Somme were laid out on College Green in the centre of Bristol. 80,000 visitors came to see the shrouds, including one couple who travelled 250 miles from North Yorkshire having seen it on the news.
The sight of so many ‘bodies’ was overwhelming and moved many to tears. Names of the 19,240 were listed on boards along with the names of 53,000 others killed at the Somme – one of the bloodiest battles in history.
Somerset artist Rob Heard who took three years to complete the shrouds said, “the response from the public has been incredible. I really feel this brings home the scale of the loss to people, but still represents each soldier as an individual – something which is so important to relatives, even several generations on.”
The project relied heavily on support from 6 Rifles, Bristol Port Authority and BT Openreach who provided volunteers throughout. Over £16,000 was raised for the Bristol branch of SSAFA The Armed Forces Charity which supports servicemen, veterans and their families in times of need.cxozroxwiaa4gfv
Rob hasn’t finished yet – he plans to create a shroud for each of the 72,246 British servicemen killed at the Somme whose bodies were never recovered, “in some small way I would like to bring them home,” he says. Provided he can find the funding, Rob hopes to complete this enormous challenge in time to display the shrouds in November 2018 to mark the Centenary of Armistice Day. “Itshrouds-of-the-somme-bristol-cathedral-nov-2016 would be like nothing else – quarter of a kilometer of bodies laid out in rows, hopefully somewhere central where it will be seen by hundreds of thousands of people, reminding them of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Second chance to see the iconic Shrouds of the Somme (Bristol)

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THE iconic installation commemorating soldiers who fell on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, which captivated millions when it was displayed in Exeter, is to be shown again.
After hundreds of requests to extend the exhibition, organisers are bringing the breathtaking display to the grounds of Bristol Cathedral where it will be on show from 11 to the 18 November this year, marking the Centenary of one of the bloodiest battles in history and remembering all 127,751 British soldiers who lost their lives.
The display was created by Somerset Artist Rob Heard who wrapped and bound each figure in a hand-stitched shroud, crossing the name of every soldier who fell on that fateful first day off a list sourced from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
“The Shrouds, along with the Poppies at the Tower are perhaps the most memorable WWI commemorations this country has ever seen,” said Mel Bradley MBE, Project Manager. “The public response to the shrouds from around the world has far exceeded all expectations.
“We have a visitors book from Exeter with hundreds and hundreds of personal and emotional remarks from people trying to express the impact the Shrouds has had on them. This is reflected on our Facebook page with thousands of comments and video clip views of over 10million. It had a huge impact on the City of Exeter and has the potential to be even bigger in Bristol. The personal and community impact cannot be underestimated.”
‘The exhibition was one of the most powerful Acts of Remembrance I have seen throughout my military career and subsequent time as President of the Royal British Legion for Devon,” said Commodore Jake Moores OBE, Chairman of the Shrouds of the Somme.
“The raw emotion it produced in countless numbers of people, many of whom were in tears, some kneeling and praying and others stood rigidly to attention, was extremely moving. Without doubt this exhibition touches the hearts of all those who are privileged to witness it.”
Donations from the exhibition, which will be opened on Armistice Day, will be donated to Forces charity SSAFA, specifically to their Bristol branch supporting servicemen, veterans and their families in the Bristol area in times of need.
Shrouds of the Somme has been shortlisted for a Remember WW1 award, results to be announced on 2 November.

Thousands flock to see the world’s biggest art project commemorating every man who fell on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

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July 1st 2016

With pictures – from Richard Austin

THOUSANDS of people have already visited the world’s biggest art project unveiled this morning to commemorate the 19,240 allied soldiers who fell on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

The 19240 Shrouds of the Somme project has been created by artist Rob Heard who hand-stitched every one, reciting out loud the name of each soldier as he finished their shroud.

A ceremony in Northerhay Gardens remembering the first day of the Battle of the Somme. 19,240 men were killed on the first day. Artist Rob Herd spent 3 years making 19,240 shrouds one for each life lost to commemorate 100 years since the battle Richard Austin Pic: Richard Austin Tel: 07831 566005This morning an emotional ceremony saw soldiers, veterans, charity VIPs, the 19240 Shrouds of the Somme Committee, Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Devon and the French Consul from Plymouth bear witness to the official opening of the project. Actors Imelda Staunton and Jim Carter also attended.

After speeches by the Lord Mayor of Exeter, Commodore Jake Moores and Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Devon, the final shroud was laid by Warrant Officer 2 Elliot Drake from 6th Rifles whilst the Last Post was played.

The national two minute silence was observed. The end of the two minute silence was broken by the sound of whistles being blown consecutively by soldiers standing guard around the shrouds.Rob Heard & Steve Knightley Shrouds of the Somme

After every one had been blown, the final whistle – a World War One original – was sounded by Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Devon to mark the opening of the exhibition. The Gamekeeper, a poignant song by award-winning folk band Show of Hands, was played to mark the opening moments.

Visitors had come from as far afield as Australia, coming to visit and remember their own relatives who fell in the battle. There was raw emotion and tears from many of those witnessing the sight for the first time.

Shrouds of the Somme by Exeter CastleMany sought out artist Rob Heard, who spent three years creating the project, to thank him.

“I was in awe of the response of the public and the armed services and the fact that this subject still resonates through us all and that even after 100 years the emotion involved is still astounding,” said Rob.

“It’s certainly given me a sense of perspective on what is important in life and when I was making the shrouds and I had a bad day I would stand among all this and say to myself ‘how dare you?’”

“Hundreds of people have come up to me to say ‘thank you’ which I never expected, particularly as when I started doing this it wasn’t for public display. I didn’t expect this many people and even I didn’t know what it would look like until today.”

Rob began the project at his studio in West Somerset in December 2013, making 500 prototype figures to see what the visual impact of that would be and to see if he could get anyone to support his project.

In spring 2014 a chance meeting with Steve Knightley, lead singer of folk band Show of Hands, led directly to the creation of the ‘19240 Shrouds of the Somme’ project. Steve then conceived of the idea of displaying these figures in Northernhay Gardens in his home city of Exeter on the morning of July 1st 2016 and in his capacity as Honorary patron of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum approach them to see how this might be achieved.

Between them the artist and the singer brought together the 19240 Shrouds of the Somme Committee to help make their project happen, including serving and retired soldiers at 6 Rifles; Exeter City Council; The Mayor’s Office; Exeter Foundation; Exeter Cathedral; Santander; South West Growth Service; Bowater Communications and SSAFA.

On July 1st 2016 at 7:30am the dream they created together in that conversation two years before became a reality when the exhibition of 19,240 hand-stitched figures representing each man who fell on the first day of the Battle of the Somme was opened to the public in Exeter.

“It’s a real privilege to have chaired the 19240 Shrouds of the Somme Project over the last two and a half years and to see it all come together today with a moving, heartwarming, memorable opening ceremony which I hope touches the heart of the nation,’ said Commodore Jake Moores.

A ceremony in Northerhay Gardens remembering the first day of the Battle of the Somme. 19,240 men were killed on the first day. Artist Rob Herd spent 3 years making 19,240 shrouds one for each life lost to commemorate 100 years since the battle Richard Austin Pic: Richard Austin Tel: 07831 566005

“The exhibition of 19,240 shrouded figures should be a lesson to us all of the futility of war and an important act of remembrance for those who gave their lives in both world wars so that we may live in peace.”

The exhibition is laid out in Exeter’s Northernhay Gardens and will be open from 7:30am to 9pm. Every name of the 19,240 men who fell will be read out from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s records of the dead by volunteers over the next seven days – actors Jim Carter and Imelda Staunton were among the first to read them out. The closing ceremony will be held on July 7th at 9pm.

For further information or interviews please contact Alexis Bowater at Bowater Communications on 07786 362454 or info@bowatercommunications.co.uk

More images and videos are available on facebook.com/thesomme19240 or on our Twitter feed @thesomme19240


Jim Carter and Imelda Staunton join Devon Somme concert

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From Plymouth Herald
By Martin Freeman

Acclaimed actors Jim Carter and Imelda Staunton are to feature in a Devon concert marking the Battle of the Somme centenary.

The couple will join celebrated folk band Show of Hands for the event in Exeter Cathedral on July 1.  The concert will conclude a day of commemorations beginning with the unveiling of a major art project remembering every man killed on the bloodiest day in British military history.

Jim is best known for his role as Carson the butler in ITV’s ratings-topper Downton Abbey for which he was nominated for an Emmy.

His wife Imelda won four Olivier Awards including for her performances in the musicals Sweeney Todd and Gypsy, and is familiar to Harry Potter fans from her roles in the films.

They will read poems by war poets such as Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and Rupert Brooke against musical backcloths composed by Show of Hands.

“We were delighted to be asked to work on the centenary project,” said Imelda. “The music is beautiful and the poems work so well. It is very moving and we feel very proud to be a part of it.”

BBC award-winning singer-songwriter Steve Knightley and multi-instrumentalist Phil Beer will be joined by their long-term collaborator Miranda Sykes at the concert.

A day of commemorations will begin at 7.30am, 100 years to the minute from when the whistle was blown for the troops to “go over the top”, as 19,240 hand-stitched calico shrouded figures are revealed in Northernhay Gardens in the city.

Each figure in the 19240 Shrouds of the Somme Project represents an allied serviceman who fell on the opening day of the battle. The losses included at least 700 from the South West. Rob Heard, an artist from Somerset, and Steve conceived the project.

Meanwhile, Show of Hands are releasing a single and video to mark the centenary. The Gamekeeper, which will be available to download from July 1, tells of a young man from Devon sent to the trenches and the impact on his life.

Devon’s Lost Sound Chorus will also take part in the evening concert, which will raise funds for the 19240 Shrouds of the Somme project, with profits to be donated to armed forces charity SSAFA and The Exeter Foundation – the Exeter Chiefs’ rugby club charity – to be distributed among local and military causes.

The concert will feature songs and poetry from Show of Hands’, album Centenary – Words and Music of The Great War, which also featured Jim and Imelda.

Tickets for the 7.30pm concert, priced £15 to £25, are available from Exeter Cathedral on 01392 285983 or online at exeter-cathedral.cloudvenue.co.uk/Showofhands

Remembering every man who fell on the first day of the Battle of the Somme

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The 19240 Allied soldiers who fell on the first day of the Battle of the Somme are to be individually remembered in an unique and historic centenary art project.

On 1 July 2016, exactly 100 years to the day later, at the same time as the whistle was blown to ‘go over the top’, 19,240 hand-stitched shrouded figures representing every soldier will be revealed laid out in Exeter’s Northernhay Gardens.

The names of the fallen have been marked by the artist Rob Heard who has seven volumes of the War Graves Commission’s lists of those who died. As each shroud is completed he reads the soldier’s name out loud and symbolically crosses them off the list.

The team behind the project are now appealing for volunteers to help on the day. Group Captain Robin Chambers, representing the Armed Forces charity SSAFA who will benefit from the project, said:

“SSAFA was there in 1916 to support the families of those who fell at the Somme and, since 1885 has supported all service personnel and their families. The 19240 Shrouds of the Somme Exhibition is another way in which we can show that we are here to help.

“The exhibition captures the brutality and emotional impact of service life and, as an all-volunteer charity we are honoured to be asked to supervise the exhibition and assist the public.

“As the exhibition will be very popular, we are recruiting volunteers for 1-7 July to assist us in interacting with the public, reading the names of the fallen and selling the shrouds.”

Anyone who would like to volunteer to help can apply online at www.thesomme19240.co.uk

The team behind the project also see this as an opportunity to create a lasting legacy commemorating those who fell and are asking for the public to upload photos, stories, memories and any further information on individuals to build up a picture of them to commemorate them at www.thesomme19240.co.uk/The-Fallen/

England Rugby star discovers relative is among Somme Fallen

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ENGLAND and Exeter Chiefs rugby star Jack Nowell has discovered that a family member was among the soldiers who fell on the first day of the battle of the Somme and who will be commemorated in an astonishing centenary project this summer.

The 19240 Shrouds of the Somme project aims to remember all 19,240 allied soldiers who died on 1st July 1916. Artist Rob Heard has created hand-stitched, shrouded figurines to represent every one of them and the installation will be unveiled on July 1st.

Jack Nowell 19240 names 5Cornishman Jack discovered that his great, great Uncle Frank was among them at a charity dinner at the Exeter Chiefs’ ground to raise money for the project. His father, Newlyn trawlerman Mike Nowell, knew that Francis Nowell had fought and died at the Somme because the Nowell family visit the war memorial where he is listed every year.

What they didn’t know was that he was one of the 19240 who died on the first day.

Only after checking the boards of lists which were brought to the dinner did they discover that Francis Nowell was one of the men who fought and died on the first day of the battle of the Somme.

“It all came as a bit of a surprise really,” said Jack. “It wasn’t until I attended the recent 19240 Shrouds of the Somme Dinner here at the club that I found out the history of it all.

“I know there is a memorial back in Newlyn that lists the name of my great, great uncle, but now hearing what happened during the battle and that one of my only relatives was involved, it really did bring it home to me what happened all those years ago.”

Committee member Mel Bradley MBE from the 19240 Shrouds of the Somme explained the astonishing coincidence at the dinner where Jack had donated a signed shirt for the auction:

“I asked Jack’s dad if he knew if Frank was one of the 19240 who died on the first day,” she explained. “He thought it possible so I checked the boards of names which were behind him and Francis Nowell was on the last board. Rob only bought the first 6 of10 boards. Francis’ name was just below the green lines where Rob had got to in making the shrouds. So I got Jack’s dad and showed him – he was quite touched.”

The 19240 Shrouds of the Somme project will be unveiled in Exeter’s Northernhay Gardens on July 1st this year at 7:30am. It not only aims to provide a powerful visual depiction of the vast loss of life but schools across the UK are invited to get involved in their education project.

They are also asking the public to help by using the power of the internet to create the biggest database of the fallen on that day that has ever existed.

“We believe that in this age of digital technology we have a chance like never before of building up a comprehensive portfolio of information about the soldiers who gave their lives on that tragic day,” says artist Rob Heard who came up with the project.

“We want schools, communities, families and individuals to get involved and let us know if they have any information about anyone, a friend, relative, neighbour or member of their community.

Photos, stories, memories and any further information that we can use to build up a picture of them to remember who they were instead of just a name on a list will help to commemorate them properly and help future generations understand the real human cost of war.”

Now Jack is set to honour his great Uncle Frank by crossing his name off the list of completed Shrouds crafted by Rob.

Thousands raised at Somme Dinner for 19240 Shrouds project

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Royal Marines band at Sandy ParkEXETER CHIEFS AND ENGLAND RUGBY SUPERSTAR JACK NOWELL was among 250 guests at a special centenary dinner in aid of a project to remember 19,240 Allied servicemen who lost their lives on the first day of the Battle of the Somme at Sandy Park.

It was an emotional and poignant evening and one where the rugby star discovered his Great Great Uncle Francis Nowell was among those tragically killed on that day.

BFBS Shirley Swain flanked by Jack Nowell & Henry Slade at Somme DinnerThis year marks 100 years since the bloodiest day in British military history and the 19240 Shrouds of the Somme project aims to bring into sharp focus the true reality, loss and sacrifice of every individual who died on the 1st of July 1916.

 Artist Rob Heard has been hand crafting thousands of shroud-covered miniature figurines – each representing the exact number of soldiers killed.

 Once complete the mass of figures will be laid out side-by-side in a thought-provoking vision at the Northernhay Gardens in Exeter and in time for Armed Forces Day.
During the gala dinner event Her Majesty’s Band of the Royal Marines performed a spectacular Beating of the Retreat on the pitch for guests seated in the main stand.

Winning bidder for Jack Nowell's England shirt at Somme DinnerPaul Martin of BBC’s Flog It! fame auctioned off some incredible items, including the very first shrouded figure, number 00001 which was sold for £1,000. By the end of the night more than £14,000 was raised for the 19240 Shrouds of the Somme project.

The sFirst Shroud sold at auction to Tony Rowe Chairman of Exeter Chiefshrouded figures will be sold after being on display – all profits donated to The Exeter Foundation and the forces charity SSAFA. Shrouds can now be pre-ordered from www.thesomme19240.co.uk/shop

Get your tickets for The Somme Centenary Dinner at Sandy Park 16th April

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A fantastic evening has been lined up in support of 19240 Shrouds of the Somme at Sandy Park on 16th April. A Beat the Retreat from The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines will be followed by a 3 course gourmet dinner, talk from ex Welsh Guardsman Rob Gallimore on the Somme and a charity auction hosted by BBC Flog It’s Paul Martin. The evening will be finished off with more music and dancing. Tickets are limited – download a BOOKING FORM or email enquiries@exeterfoundation.org.uk

19240 dinner at Sandy Park 16 April poster

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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