Thousands of volunteers took part in a UK-wide event on Friday 1 July 2016, as a modern memorial to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.
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. The young men 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.
Photo credit: Eoin Carey
The daylong work ran from 7am to 7pm and covered the width and breadth of the UK, from Shetland to Plymouth. Sites they visited included shopping centres, train stations, beaches, car parks and high streets – taking the memorial to contemporary Britain and bringing an intervention into people’s daily lives where it was least expected.Commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary, the work was conceived and created by Jeremy Deller in collaboration with Rufus Norris.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, Sheffield Theatres and Theatre Royal Plymouth.
Director Simon Sharkey
Movement Direction Brigid McCarthy and Vince Virr
Workshop Assistant Robbie Gordon
Producer Dawn Taylor
Assistant Producer Stephanie Katie Hunter
Company Manager Alison Brodie
Concept by Jeremy Deller
Direction by Rufus Norris