We saw a flurry of activity in the final days of our 26 Armistice project – including a surprise mention in the House of Commons. In case you missed it, here’s a round-up of highlights from the week.
An unexpected request…
On the Tuesday before Armistice Day, a surprising enquiry came via the 26 website:
From: Hilary Benn MP
Message Body: I wanted to ask if it was OK for me to read out ‘Goodnight Kiss’ by Philip Parker – one of the centena poems – in a speech I am planning to give in the House of Commons later today about the Armistice in which I will be talking about George Edwin Ellison.
By lunchtime, John Simmons has spoken to Hilary Benn over the phone, told him a bit more about the project and 26, and promised to send him a copy of the book. We were left to cross our fingers – hoping that Hilary Benn would indeed be called to speak later that day. And we were in luck.
Fast-forward to early evening and, with several of the 26 Armistice project team eagerly listening in to live coverage from parliament, Hilary Benn read Philip’s centena as part of a very moving speech. As a result, 26 has now been duly recorded in Hansard – testament to the reach and the importance of this project. You can read the full speech here.
To mark Armistice Day, Eames Fine Art kindly hosted a sombre, beautiful display of all 100 centenas across their Bermondsey gallery space for one day. The centenas were presented with quiet dignity, marshalled into formation across one wall, each adorned with a single, red poppy.
Every hour, a group of writers gave readings and discussed their centenas, supported by fellow 26ers and members of the public. We explored memory, family tales and loss through our readings, all well-received by a small but lovely crowd. These stories ignited conversations, meditations on memories of friends and family lost to war. It was a simple and moving experience, a fitting culmination to an expansive, emotional project.
With special thanks to Rebecca and Vincent Eames, who kindly donated a large space in their gallery to devote to Armistice 100 days and presented our work so thoughtfully. Previous collaborators on 26 Prints, they welcomed members of the public in to engage with the work, and gave each of our writers a warm welcome for the readings.
We must also thank Ross Loveday, the current exhibiting artist who kindly agreed to make space for our centenas to mark Armistice Day. As writers, we rarely get to see our work displayed on walls, so we appreciate the gesture.
A big thank you to our writers who partook in public readings throughout the day; Martin Lee, Elen Lewis, Gita Raleigh, Becca Magnus, Wendy Jones, Lisa Andrews, Elise Valmorbida, Ed Prichard and John Simmons.
And lastly, thank you to everyone who popped by to show your support, view the work and mark the day by sharing your stories.
– Becca Magnus
The Last Post
On Monday 12 November, the final day of the project, Ed Prichard shared his reflections on 26 Armistice and his hopes for the project’s impact for years to come in The Last Post.
‘One day, maybe in 100 years’ time, someone will pick up a copy and be touched by those stories all over again. And hopefully the spark it ignites will carry the connection and these precious memories on another 100 years into the future.’