Remembrance Day 2015: Liverpool Remembers
St George’s Hall
Words by Patrick Kirk-Smith
In the centenary years of WWI, Remembrance Day is a crucial part of what it means to be British, and this year we are reminded just what it means to be scouse. St George’s Hall this week launched its breath-taking installation of Weeping Window, the new incarnation of Paul Cummins and Tom Piper’s notorious Poppies, and it truly is mesmerising.
The cascade of hand-crafted flowers is surrounded by swathes of permanent and temporary memorials, including remembrances of families, of troops, and of events that have shaped Liverpool’s history, and who’s memory continues to shape it to this day. As a city, we are indebted to these very real heroes, and as we get further into a generation without grandparents who have experienced these wars, it is essential that events like this continue to convert our city into unmissable memorials.
Today, on the 11th day of the 11th month, I want to use this temporary memorial to talk about the temporary cenotaphs that are guiding us through the city from St George’s Hall, the famous meeting place of our beloved Liverpool PALs, to the Museum of Liverpool, the building where they are immortalised in film and record. The temporary cenotaphs I am talking about are self-standing billboards titled Liverpool Remembers. They are reminders of a wide range of war stories, from a mixed array of perspectives.
Whether it is our Fathers, Grandfathers, or Great Grandfathers somewhere along the line we have that connection to this war, and will always have stories to tell. What this installation does is remind us of those stories and immortalise them in our memories before it is too late, before we start to see these acts of global warfare as distant history. The families recorded are not dissimilar in nature to the ones we know first-hand, they were generational. There were children who made a difference to war efforts, like Dick Trafford, one of the many brave boys who signed up to fight at just fifteen, as well as those who never had a chance. Sisters capturing memories of the war at home through a sketch pad. Fathers lost in their droves to the Lusitania. These are just a handful of examples, which I can only try to introduce, but that Liverpool Remembers memorialise and Weeping Window immortalise.
Weeping Window consists of several thousand handmade poppies, each one commemorating an individual. I think the work has outgrown that now though, and has started to empower the memory of people across the UK, memorialising each and every person lost to each and every war. Their visit to Liverpool is a chance to remember the follies of the Great War, as well as a compliment to a city which has shown it is capable of coping with disaster and heart break on far too many occasions.
This is a city that has embraced remembrance during the centenary years, and is host to several inspiring and long-running exhibitions including Poppies: Women and War at the Museum of Liverpool, an intense reminder of the impact the war had on Liverpool’s women, and the impact they had on the war. Lusitania at Merseyside Maritime Museum is an in depth and emotional guide to the day the Lusitania sank. Sir Peter Blake’s Dazzle Ferry takes us on a whole other adventure too, as a beautiful reminder of some of the creative ways Britain tackled the war, but also a chance to sail out on a piece of history and view the city from the water – the only real way to understand how powerfully Liverpool recouped after the war, seeing the scale of the city from border to border.
These exhibitions are celebrations of people tragically lost to war, and all focus on specific elements of our local identity. For anyone hoping to better understand their heritage these are a must see, as is Weeping Window, a beautifully resonant installation which holds us all to account, lest we forget.