CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Derbyshire Life today CLICK HERE

The Poppies Tour at Derby’s Silk Mill

PUBLISHED: 00:00 04 August 2017

A constant stream of visitors viewed the poppies

A constant stream of visitors viewed the poppies

geoff ford

Geoff Ford reports on the arrival of the Poppies Tour in Derby

The poppies came home to DerbyThe poppies came home to Derby

Poppies: Weeping Window drew tens of thousands of visitors to view it over the seven weeks it was installed at Derby’s Silk Mill. The Weeping Window is one of two features retained from the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red sculpture of 888,246 poppies (one for each British and Colonial life lost in the First World War) created by Derby artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper at the Tower of London in 2014. The sale of the other poppies raised money for charity.

Many of the poppies were created at Paul’s studio in Derby, so how did he feel to see his iconic creation on display at the Silk Mill?

‘It’s slightly surreal, for me,’ he said, ‘because the exhibition found a home with everybody and these are the ones who haven’t found a home yet. They represent the un-named soldiers and the people who had nobody to claim them. That’s what these are like for me, the souls of the soldiers who had nobody. Because they are going to lie in Manchester and London at the end of all this, and it took a long time for people to have even a basic grave in the First World War if they weren’t claimed, for me that’s how I’m judging this. My work’s always transient and just goes. These are sort of permanent.

‘People didn’t need an explanation of what these were, that was the great thing about them, one flower for one life. Everyone claims them, which is good,’ he continued. ‘Now I feel like some crazy uncle! I’m really happy that they’ve come back here to Derby.’

Paul Cummins and Tom Piper inspect the poppy installationPaul Cummins and Tom Piper inspect the poppy installation

‘We are taking the installation to 19 places around the UK, which takes us to the end of the First World War centenary, November 2018,’ said Jenny Waldmann CBE, Director of 14-18 NOW which is organising the tour – one of many projects to bring the legacy of the First World War to life for new generations. ‘It’s going to so many places and it’s lovely to be able to bring out local and regional stories of the First World War. Of course, that war impacted all across the UK.

‘It’s been very emotional,’ she added. ‘It’s such a beautiful sculpture and it also brings up memories that are inter-generational – grandparents talking to grandchildren about their own memories of their parents. Nearly two and a half million people have seen it now, around the UK.

‘Paul Cummins was very keen for it to come back here and so many of the poppies were made here. It is wonderful to bring it back and that’s part of the local resonance of it here. Also, Derby Silk Mill played a role in the First World War, Rolls-Royce, too, as well as the soldiers who came from Derby and the people here who were impacted by war.’

Whilst the concept of Blood Swept Lands was Paul’s, designer Tom Piper was engaged to help create the finished sculpture because of his theatre background. ‘I was brought on board for the Tower of London because of the scale of the project,’ he said. ‘I looked at the way the installation engaged with the building, the Weeping Window and the Wave, and also the way that it was planted and the use of the volunteers. Since then, at every location we do a site visit and look at how the sculpture might best respond to it. The lovely thing about it is that the idea is fixed, coming from an aperture or window, but what it does thereafter can be developed and adapted for each location. Each one is unique and responds to the location.

The poppies swept to a pool where the mill race once flowedThe poppies swept to a pool where the mill race once flowed

‘Here we’re coming on the corner of the tower and because this used to be the mill race where we’re standing, the poppies teeter on the edge of the mill race which is highlighted by the paving stones. Also, a bit like the way that any liquid behaves, it is pouring down and where it hits another wall it splashes and rises up. It is a nice metaphor of the poppy, both as a plant and a blood-like thing.

‘It’s been extraordinary, really,’ Tom added. ‘It’s not what we expected when we started. The most amazing thing is that it has adapted to circumstances as it’s gone along. Initially we thought we’d plant the whole lot in three weeks at the Tower of London. That became a logistic impossibility, so we had to adapt our ideas. It became a long planting thing which created a momentum around it and allowed 20,000 volunteers to get involved.’

Tony Butler, Executive Director at Derby Museums, added: ‘The Silk Mill is the symbol of making in Derby. We have 300 years of manufacturing history in the city that the building exemplifies and making is a really important part of our city’s story. It’s fitting that the poppies that were made here have come back. We are very proud that the Silk Mill has been chosen as a venue.’


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Derbyshire Life and Countryside visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Derbyshire Life and Countryside staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Derbyshire Life and Countryside account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

If you’re walking in the Peak District, the chances are that you could encounter a reservoir at some point during your ramble. There are dozens of resevoirs dotted around all corners of the national park, we pick some of our favourite walks from our archive.

Read more
Peak District

A five-year Heritage Lottery-funded scheme, launched in 2010, was designed to encourage the restoration and conservation of the distinctive landscape character of a large area of north-east Derbyshire.

Read more

Enjoy the wonder of woodland in our glorious Derwent Valley on this park and ride special.

Read more

Paul Hobson reveals some of the fascinating wildlife there is to be found in this month of transition

Read more

From far away constellations to gas clouds, our night skies are bursting with natural wonders – if you know where to look... Viv Micklefield goes stargazing in Derbyshire

Read more

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust works across six Living Landscapes with 46 nature reserves to ensure there is wildlife and wild places for everyone. Reserve officer Sam Willis tells us about one of his favourite places – Ladybower Wood Nature Reserve

Read more

A multi-million pound makeover attracts more leading brands to one of the UK’s biggest shopping destinations

Read more

The first ever National GetOutside Day takes place on Sunday 30 September with the aim of getting 1 million people active outdoors across the UK.

Read more

Derby’s QUAD arts centre has become an important part of the city’s identity over the last decade and it celebrates its impact on the cultural landscape at its 10th anniversary this September

Read more

Interesting architecture, characterful places to shop, drink and dine and a hub of arts, heritage and history are some of the reasons to plan a visit to the town.

Read more

Peter Seddon celebrates the county’s red telephone kiosks

Read more

Ad Feature: Students at Trent College celebrate another year of success

Friday, September 14, 2018

The overall pass rate for A-Levels this year was 99%

Read more

As the starting point of numerous routes, scenic Edale is one of the country’s iconic base camps for hill walkers

Read more

6 great walks near Glossop

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The market town of Glossop is both the perfect gateway to explore the Peak District or the underrated walking routes that lie east of Manchester.

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Subscribe or buy a mag today

Topics of Interest

Local Business Directory

Property Search