we’re here because we’re here
Sheffield Theatres takes part in UK-wide work by Jeremy Deller to commemorate the centenary of the Somme.
Volunteers led by Sheffield Theatres were part of a UK-wide event today, Friday 1 July 2016, as a modern memorial to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. Commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary, the work was conceived and created by Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller in collaboration with Rufus Norris, Director of the National Theatre.
‘we’re here because we’re here’ saw some 1400 voluntary participants dressed in First World War uniform appear unexpectedly in locations across the UK. 27 organisations collaborated on the event, which was produced by Birmingham Repertory Theatre and the National Theatre, working in close collaboration with partners including: Lyric Theatre Belfast, Manchester Royal Exchange, National Theatre of Scotland, National Theatre Wales, Northern Stage, Playhouse Derry-Londonderry, Salisbury Playhouse, Theatre Royal Plymouth and Sheffield Theatres.
The participants who walked the streets of South Yorkshire today were a reminder of the 19,240 men who were killed on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Each participant represented an individual soldier who was killed on that day. The work is partly inspired by tales of sightings during and after the First World War by people who believed they had seen a dead loved one.
The participants wore historically accurate uniforms, representing 15 of the regiments that suffered losses in the first day of the Battle. The soldiers did not speak, but at points throughout the day would sing the song ‘we’re here because we’re here’, which was sung in the trenches during the First World War. They handed out cards to members of the public with the name and regiment of the soldier they represented, and, where known, the age of the soldier when he died on 1 July 1916.
The daylong work ran from 7.00am to 7.00pm and covered the width and breadth of the UK, from Shetland to Plymouth. Sites they visited included Meadowhall and Frenchgate Shopping Centres, Sheffield, Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster Train Stations as well as The Civic, Barnsley and Cast, Doncaster – taking the memorial to contemporary Britain and bringing an intervention into people’s daily lives where it was least expected.
The volunteers from across South Yorkshire were men aged between 17-52, reflecting the men who would have fought in the Somme. They were not trained actors but come from a range of professions, including a Radio Producer, a Flight Attendant, a PHD Student, a Finance Consultant and an Amateur Boxer. They came together to rehearse in theatres across the UK over a month-long period in the run-up to the performance. ‘we’re here because we’re here’ is one of the largest arts participation projects ever staged in the UK, with hundreds of additional volunteers working behind the scenes.
Dan Bates, Chief Executive of Sheffield Theatres, said:
“We are incredibly proud to have been part of this project that remembers such a significant moment in our history. It has been extremely fulfilling to work alongside 89 volunteers from our local community on the piece, and we are thrilled to have been able to collaborate with so many other theatres and partners from across the country to create a memorial the entire country could be part of”.