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Saturday, July 02, 2016

This is why Jeremy Deller's We Are Here project was so powerful

Remembrance isn't a competitive sport, obviously, but yesterday the news media gave too much play to the Thiepval ceremony to mark 100 years since the first day of the Somme and not enough to the astounding Jeremy Deller initiative We are here in which thousands of volunteers, dressed as members of Kitchener's Army, stood around in stations and public places up and down the country as though it were a hundred years earlier and they were waiting to embark.

If anyone asked what they were doing there they silently handed out a card bearing the name of the soldier they were, as the kids would say, "representing", all of whom died on July 1st 1916.

It wasn't just a dazzling piece of theatre and a great logistical feat. It was also a powerful reminder of the thing that strikes me every time I go to one of those cemeteries in northern France and Belgium and read the little books of remembrance in which are listed the home addresses of the dead.

The Vicarage.

Gasworks Street.

Glebe Cottage.

The Old Kent Road.

They were us.