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Preview: We’re here because we’re here at Newcastle Northern Stage


‘We’re here because we’re here’
The story of Jeremy Deller’s Modern Memorial
Newcastle Northern Stage
Friday 3rd – Thursday 16th March 2017, 9.30am – 11.30pm

The exhibition at Northern Stage tells the story of the contemporary memorial ‘We’re here because we’re here’, presented by 14-18 NOW and the National Theatre from 3 – 16 March 2017.

‘We’re here because we’re here’ in the North East
Photo: Topher McGrillis.
‘We’re here because we’re here’ took place on 1 July 2016 when more than 1400 voluntary participants in First World War uniform appeared unexpectedly in locations across the UK. The participants 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 represented an individual soldier who was killed on that day.

The soldiers, dressed in historically accurate uniforms, 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.

Created by Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller in collaboration with Rufus Norris, Director of the National Theatre, ‘We’re here because we’re here’ reached over 30 million people across the UK1. The work was specially commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War Centenary commemorations.

This new exhibition will tell the story of the project through images of the volunteers from across the UK and BBC documentary charting the making of the project. 

Lorne Campbell, Artistic Director of Northern Stage, said: “We’re delighted to be the first venue to host this exhibition. ‘We’re here because we’re here’ was an incredible project to be involved in. Not only in bringing together a large group of participants from all walks of life to mark one of the great tragedies of the First World War, but in the enormous impact it had on audiences across the North East.

“It was a truly effective piece of art that slipped gently into the everyday, as a beautiful and subtle remembrance of the ordinary men who gave their lives in the senseless slaughter of the Somme. This new photo exhibition at Northern Stage will further celebrate the project, its participants and those the performance was created in remembrance of.”

Northern Stage was one of 26 organisations that collaborated on the project; the first time so many theatres have worked together on a UK-wide participation project, making it the largest arts participation project ever staged in the country.

The daylong work ran from 7am to 7pm and covered the width and breadth of the UK, from Shetland to Penzance. North East sites they visited included the National Glass Centre in Sunderland, Newcastle Quayside and Monument, Sage Gateshead and the Metro Centre, taking the memorial to contemporary Britain and bringing an intervention into people’s daily lives where it was least expected.

One of the North East volunteers was 38 year old John Taylor from Benton in Newcastle. John served with the 1st Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (1RRF) and the Royal Artillery, his father also served in the RNF and 1RRF and his Great Granddad, William Edward Atkinson served his country during WW1.

Another participant, James Gebbie, age 22 from North Shields, said, “I really enjoyed getting into costume and portraying a real life soldier, also researching my character.
23 year old Edward Christensen from the West End of Newcastle said, “I enjoyed being part of a large ensemble and learning more about British military history.

Jenny Waldman, Director of 14-18 NOW, said: “For the centenary of the Somme, Jeremy Deller, Rufus Norris, 26 theatres and over 1400 volunteers, created an exceptional and powerful live memorial 'We're here because we're here'. Both unexpected and warmly embraced by millions of people, the 'silent soldiers' made an impact across the UK. This exhibition is a wonderful way to remember the ambitious work and tell the story of how it came together.”

Rufus Norris, Director of the National Theatre, said: “This work by Jeremy Deller was a truly national piece of theatre and a powerful way to remember the men who went off to fight 100 years ago. I also hope it will serve as a catalyst to strengthen ties with theatres and communities across the UK.” 

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