Mayor of London Boris Johnson implores Historic Royal Palaces to extend poppies installation as public pressure grows
The breathtakingly beautiful First World War memorial of a field of ceramic poppies at The Tower of London must remain, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has said.
Though plans are underfoot for the removal of the popular installation after Armistice Day (11 November), pressure is building for officials to leave it in place. And spearheading the campaign to keep it is the London Mayor, who is begging Historic Royal Palace chiefs, who look after The Tower of London, to continue to run it for at least an extra week or two.
As thousands have been flocking to see the exhibition created for the centenary of WWI daily, up to four million people are expected to have visited it before it is taken down on 12 November. But with the rush of visitors growing, Johnson hopes to give even more people the chance to glimpse it, with an extension of its tenure at the Tower.
“The poppy field at the Tower is a unique and poignant focus of remembrance in this centenary year,” Johnson told the Evening Standard. “It has grown rapidly in popularity, to such an extent that it is now a global visitor attraction. I’m keen to explore whether we can keep the exhibition open for longer, to give as many people as possible the chance to glimpse something so incredible, whilst easing the pressure on numbers.”
However, Lord Dannatt, the most senior official at the Tower of London and the former head of the army, has said that though this “pressure” is understood, plans to dismantle it could not change at this stage.
The heart-rending exhibition, entitled Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red by ceramic artist Paul Cummins, is due to be removed the day after Armistice Day, and officials have stated that the poppies’ transience is inherent to the exhibition – as the artist’s intention was to illustrate the fragility of lives lost in the war. A team of 8,000 volunteers has already been assembled to start removing and cleaning the ceramic poppies, before dispatching them to buyers who have paid £25 each, raising a total of £11.2 million for six service charities.
The installation features 888,246 ceramic poppies – one for each British life lost in the 1914-1918 conflict – and Historic Royal Palaces insists that it has a responsibility to get the ceramic poppies to those who have purchased them as quickly as possible.
The installation opened on 5 August and was visited by the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh on 16 October, but its popularity has since surged and Mr Johnson apparently fears crowds would become overwhelming, as awareness of the installation soars and people attempt to catch it before it closes, with a climax of visitors arriving just before the deadline. Special safety barriers have already been erected and the surrounding area is being prepared for heavy congestion.
The deeply moving exhibition that has captured the public’s imagination will see the final poppy planted before the two-minute silence on Remembrance Sunday at 11am.
A sea of poppies at the Tower of London to mark WWI
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