Silhouette of British sentry near the ruined Cathedral in Ypres, 5th September 1917, courtesy of the Imperial War Museum © IWM (Q 3121)

UK commissions leading artists for First World War Centenary

Posted on on 08 December 2013
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Britain is commissioning works by leading artists from the UK and around the world as part of its plans for commemorating the Centenary of the First World War. 

First details of the cultural programme, exploring the heritage and resonance of the war today under the title 14-18 NOW, were announced at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London, on December 6th 2013

It will open in June 2014 with a series of events leading up to August 4th, the 100th anniversary of Britain's entry into the war. On that day, there will be an opportunity for everyone in the UK to take part in a large-scale event.

The programme will also focus on the centenaries of  the Battle of the Somme in July 2016 and the Armistice in November 2018.

Full details won't be announced until early 2014 but artists working in all media will be asked to create works engaging young people in particular.

Vikki Heywood, the former Executive Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company who chairs 14-18 NOW, said culture had an important part to play in a landmark event for Britain and the world.

Pointing out that perceptions of the First World War have been significantly shaped by the poets, artists and writers of the time, 14-18 NOW is inviting their successors to look afresh at the conflict and "the wider social, political, scientific and technological developments of the period, exploring the full-range of their resonance today."  

The Director of 14-18 NOW is Jenny Waldman, who was creative producer of the London 2012 cultural festival accompanying the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The organisation will be working with leading cultural groups across the UK, including the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Royal Opera House, Tate Liverpool and Liverpool Biennial, Welsh National Opera and National Theatre Scotland.

The BBC is a key partner and will present a number of projects as part of the programme, including concerts at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Channel 4 will be involved too.

14-18 NOW also plans to work in partnership with many of the other countries involved in the First World War.

The programme will be funded by £10 million granted from the National Lottery, with The Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England each contributing £5million.

Source: 14-18 NOW press briefing

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News