New exhibition catalogues mysterious ‘We’re Here’ WW1 soldiers

We're Here Because We're Here soldiers in Market Square. Photo by Topher McGrilis.
We're Here Because We're Here soldiers in Market Square. Photo by Topher McGrilis.
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A new Northern Stage exhibition, running until March 16, tells the story of Jeremy Deller’s moving “We’re Here Because We’re Here” art project.

The project took place on July 1 last year when more than 1,400 volunteers in First World War uniform appeared unexpectedly in locations across the UK, including Sunderland’s Market Square.

The participants were a reminder of the 19,240 men who were killed on July 1, 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

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 July 1, 1916.

Created by Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller in collaboration with Rufus Norris, director of the National Theatre, it reached more than 30 million people across the UK.

The work was commissioned by 14-18 Now, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War Centenary commemorations. This exhibition at Newcastle tells 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.

“It 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.”