Remembrance Remembered

Up The Line was a unique arts event to mark Remembrance Day, held in Brockley and Ladywell Cemetery. We spoke with the organiser, John McKiernan, founder of PLATFORM-7, about the night and his plans for the future:

The event went very well and it was only on the Friday I realised when watching the news how lucky we were with the weather. At 6pm, the skies cleared, the wind dropped and it became relatively mild. There were the usual pre-event problems that always occur but once we started it was very smooth and the performers were exceptional, really stunning experience.

The intention of this event is to have the audience consider the impact of war and consider its consequences not to try and influence them one way or another; it is for the individual to examine their own personal view. Hearing people at the end it seems this was achieved.

We did not have the large crowd at the beginning this year which worried those of us on the gate. Instead people came steadily over the period of the evening. Counting programmes, feedback from artists and others it appears that we had somewhere shy of 450 audience. What I found surprising was that I expected many people from last year to return with friends this year, but few that anyone spoke to had been in 2009, meaning this was a new audience in the main.

Listening to feedback from last year, the space between performers was longer to allow more time for reflection and personal thoughts, this appeared to have worked. The hydrogen cells performed fantastically and not having the sound pollution as well as CO2 pollution of generators allowed the oboe, flute and piano to waft across much broader areas of the cemetery making it very beautiful in the more remote sections of the path.

The Dead Rat Orchestra outside the gate expressing youthful excitement and anticipation captured the expectations felt by many young men in 1914 and Duncan Menzies Bagpipes quickly bought back the reality of what was to follow.

Some poems were repeated from 2009 although most of the performances were new. The different location for the film by Kai Clear with Harry Vendryes reading Albert Blackmore diary made a huge difference and was very powerful.

The amount of work involved in this event means that only with funding can it take place again. Lewisham was very helpful this year but are limited to how much they are able to be involved. In all, with performers, crew and volunteers we are talking almost 100 people working on the event, all unpaid. The amount of time they need to give up is enormous.

There has been a great amount of publicity regarding the poppy and its meaning and whether there is any relevance to Remembrance in the modern day. What most people do not realise is how our life today is so shaped by the events in 1914. It is also worth noting the decades leading up to that period and how many Europeans believed large warfare was a thing of the passed. No one aged 20 would have foreseen in 1913 two World Wars and 25+ million dead before they were 60.

Should funding appear for next year then we would like to expand more on how war damaged families, parents and children of men who died and were injured, also the impact on women, from the million spinsters, the affairs and the changes in the workplace.