On an overcast day, with the wind in our hair, we and about 300 other adults and children set out for the sea. We were a highly visible snake of multi coloured high-vis jackets as the whole school emptied to visit the Southend Wave Exhibition in Gunner’s Park. The staff and children were joined by a wonderful number of parents and grandparents, along with younger brothers and sisters in push chairs or on shoulders.
The walk took about 10 minutes and the energy levels of the children were driven by the sun, wind and prospect of seeing an exhibition they had heard all about of for the last few months.
We arrived at the windswept seafront next to the Barge Pier and the first thing that drew the children’s attention were the memory cards that were fluttering in the wind. These memory cards contained dedications and memories left by relatives who had visited the exhibition and wanted to remember someone important to their lives.
Once the body of the high vis snake had caught up, the boys and girls divided into groups and the first climbed the scaffolding viewing platform to see the Wave Exhibition. The Wave Exhibition is made up of around 6000 poppies that were originally part of the Tower Of London ‘Blood swept sands and seas of red’ exhibition that have been made into a wave facing out to sea with a trail leading back to the shore. For more info see https://www.1418now.org.uk/commissions/poppies/
The children crowded the viewing platforms on either side of the pier to get the best view of the artist’s expression of the wave and many of them were moved to silence. The bold red of the poppies was framed by the grey/green of the choppy sea. The many adults with the groups helped the younger children to understand the poignancy of the exhibition while the older children discussed it themselves.
Following the viewing of the Poppy: Wave Exhibition, the children and adults gathered by the Gunner’s Park Battery lake for a talk by on the history of the Great War in their town by experts from Southend Museum. With pictures and stories of people and places from the First World War that the children could relate to and that all happened close to where their lives to place now, the children had a very engaging visit.
With the SSFR team of Beth, Dean on photos and Al on video we walked back to school with the children who had visited a unique and very special art installation.
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