Royal Exchange Theatre (January – July 2016)
‘we’re here because we’re here’ was a modern memorial to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, in which around 1500 voluntary participants dressed in First World War uniform appeared unexpectedly in locations across the UK.
Commissioned by 14-18 NOW (the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary) and created by Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller in collaboration with Rufus Norris (Director of the National Theatre), each participant represented an individual soldier who was killed on 1 July 1916. The work was partly inspired by tales of sightings during and after the First World War by people who believed they had seen a dead loved one.
Covering the width and breadth of the UK, from Shetland to Penzance, participants took to the streets from 7am-7pm, visiting shopping centres, train stations, beaches, car parks and high streets to serve as a reminder to all they encountered of the 19,240 men who were killed 100 years ago the same day; the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
The event stopped commuters in their tracks, with many moved to tears, and images flooded social media alongside passionate responses to the sightings of soldiers in over 900 public places across the UK. A YouGov poll indicated that 63% of the population were aware of the soldiers, including over 2 million people who saw the soldiers on the streets. The event trended on Twitter for over 14 hours and achieved exceptional media coverage, uniting all mainstream media from the Daily Telegraph to the Daily Mirror in positive coverage. There were 190 million impressions on social media, over 94,000 posts mentioning ‘we are here’ were created and TV and press coverage of the project reached an estimated 31 million people.
I produced the project for the North West region, leading the delivery of all activity at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester and co-ordinating the 4 North West sub-hub partners – Bolton Octagon, LeftCoast (Blackpool), Oldham Coliseum and Storyhouse (Chester).
“we’re here because we’re here… surely ranks as one of the most ambitious public art works and commemorative events ever staged in the UK.” Creative Review
“The extraordinary sight of ‘ghost soldiers’ wandering through streets and train stations has provoked a huge reaction.” Manchester Evening News
“#wearehere moved me to tears at Manchester Piccadilly yesterday. What a simple, affecting commemoration.” Twitter
“Brilliant, eerie and moving tribute” Twitter