Acclaimed author of War Horse, Michael Morpurgo has given his support to a striking new World War 1 Cenotaph to be created by blacksmiths and farriers in Flanders, Belgium.
Standing 7m tall and weighing 12 tonne, the imposing yet simple slab of weathering steel features the evocative image of a single Flanders poppy and at its base will be ‘planted’ a field of 2016 steel poppies handcrafted by blacksmiths and farriers worldwide. Framing this will be 25 panels designed by international blacksmiths referencing thoughts of the war and echoing the zig-zag of the trenches.
The contribution and suffering of horses and those who cared for them were brought to popular culture in Morpurgo’s bestselling novel War Horse and the National Theatre’s award-winning production. In the War of 1914-18 blacksmiths and farriers were indispensable in sustaining the war effort of both sides. An estimated 3,000 played an essential role in supporting the war effort, repairing and maintaining equipment to shoeing millions of horses.
Reflecting on recent international events Michael Morpurgo said “This truly is a unique project, and it is important because it’s the first Cenotaph for everyone in a time when we understand peace is so important.”
Over £100k has already been raised for the Ypres 2016 project and in launching the appeal Morpurgo explained “I would ask you to open your hearts and your pockets and help all you can to enable this extraordinary project to happen.”
Hundreds of blacksmiths and farriers from around the world have been forging poppy petals and they will gather together in Flanders in September to create the Cenotaph. Once completed it will be installed adjacent to the German War Cemetery in Langemark-Poelkapelle, visited by hundreds of thousands of people each year.
The 6 day event will bring together smiths from the many countries which fought on both sides in the First World War. The event will demonstrate the craft of blacksmithing and farriery, include live shoeing demonstrations, children’s forging area, lectures and an exhibition.
“The week-long Ypres 2016 event in the market square in Ypres in Flanders this September will be spectacular. With blacksmiths and farriers from all over the world gathering to create the Cenotaph it will be a spectacular sight and sound” said Morpurgo.
The major international exhibition of contemporary forged metal design will demonstrate artists interpreting the notion of ‘transition’ in its broadest sense – human, social, political, technological and physical landscapes that the conflict brought about in the post-war world. Following the event, the exhibition will tour various locations culminate at a major London venue as part of the celebrations of the centenary of the Armistice in 2018.
It’s a perfect example of the craftsmen and women of today using their craft to commemorate the skill and sacrifices of our forefathers.