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Somme: En Masse Art Project

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by Tony Collins (subscribe)
I am a freelance writer specialising mainly in health and education and living in Staffordshire. Find me on Linked In
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Arboretum Visitors Invited To Paint A WWl Soldier
Anyone with an artistic bent, and hopefully a passion for history, is being invited to lend a hand - literally - to a moving art project taking place in Staffordshire over several months. The Somme: En Masse Art Project is gradually taking shape at the moving National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, near Lichfield.

National Memorial Arboretum, Somme: En Masse Art Project
The impressive Somme: En Masse Art Project at the National Memorial Arboretum

The project is part of a series of activities taking place at the Arboretum to commemorate the centenary of the start of the Battle of the Somme in northern France during the First World War. The bloody battle raged along a 15-mile front for five deadly months, from July to November 1916. On the first day alone, on July 1, British casualties totalled 57,470 either killed, wounded or missing, with a third - 19,240 - suffering the ultimate sacrifice.

Somme: En Masse Art Project, National Memorial Arboretum
The soldier sticks snake out as if on patrol

To mark the occasion, the National Memorial Arboretum launched the Somme art project which will comprise exactly 19,240 wooden figures of First World War soldiers. Visitors to the Arboretum, both young and not so young, are then invited to stop at the temporary work hut and fill in a single wooden soldier using coloured pens and paints provided. Participants can also write names of loved ones who fell in combat during the Somme or the wider conflict.

Somme: En Masse Art Project, National Memorial Arboretum
The name of one of the soldiers who died on the first day of the Somme

A resident artist brought in by the Arboretum to work on the project then places each of the completed figures in a pattern on the ground. The innovative art project began in July and continues until November to coincide with Remembrance Sunday on November 13, by which time all 19,240 soldier sticks should be firmly in the ground.

Somme: En Masse Art Project, National Memorial Arboretum
People of all ages can have a go at painting the figures

Alongside the art project, the Arboretum has also created an impressive replica World War One trench installation designed to recreate the conditions endured by the troops who lived and died on the bloody front line, minus the mud, the rats and the constant shelling of course. Information boards give an overview of the Battle of the Somme, including the facts that the youngest British serviceman taking part in the war was a mere 13 years old, while the oldest was an incredible 67, who went to keep an eye out for his three sons.

National Memorial Arboretum
Part of the replica First World War trench installation

In addition, the Arboretum, which hopes to open its new Visitor Centre to the public in time for Remembrance Sunday, is providing Somme Guided Walks until November 13. Admission to the National Memorial Arboretum is free, although a donation of £5 is requested to help pay for essential running costs. Parking is charged at £3 per vehicle.
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Why? Your Chance To Take Part In A Moving Art Project
When: 1 July to 13 November 2016
Phone: 01283 245100
Where: National Memorial Arboretum, Croxall Road, Alrewas, Staffordshire DE13 7AR
Cost: Free entry but £3 parking
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