Published on 02.09.16
Hundreds of blacksmiths descended on Ypres in Belgium on 1st September 2016. Staff and students from the programme were there in force. The project has taken several years to plan; the intention was to mark the contribution of blacksmiths and farriers to the First World War by creating and installing a permanent peace memorial. The
Hundreds of blacksmiths descended on Ypres in Belgium on 1st September 2016. Staff and students from the programme were there in force. The project has taken several years to plan; the intention was to mark the contribution of blacksmiths and farriers to the First World War by creating and installing a permanent peace memorial.
The main design, a steel sheet standing seven metres high and bearing an image of a single Flanders poppy, designed by Terrence Clarke, around it planted two thousand and sixteen individually forged poppies, made by blacksmiths from across the globe, including several dozen made by our own students in the forge earlier on this year. The focus of the event from 1st to 6th September was to make twenty-five railing panels to be installed around the peace memorial, arranged in a zig-zag pattern which characterized the layout of the trenches. Twelve international master blacksmiths were invited to design a panel, and there was an open competition for the other thirteen designs.
Entries came from all over the world and we are delighted that one of our, at the time second year, students, Jacob Haggarty, was selected as a competition winner, along with Ambrose Burne’s design. Ambrose is a member of academic staff on the course.
At the event, alongside the panels being made by teams in the main market square in Ypres, there was a curated exhibition, which was organised by me and a series of eighteen lectures by many of the master blacksmiths involved in the event. A number of students and graduates from the programme were selected to participate in the exhibition, Transition. You can see details of what Gabriel Chaille, Christian Vaughan Jones, Arran Lang, and Leszek Sikon proposed to make in previous blog posts. I was accountable for curating and installing the exhibition and designing the publication and lecture series.
In addition to this, we had ten students there as crew for the event, helping install the exhibition, forge with the masters, work as marshals and generally make the event workable.
This was an incredible event, so much was learned by everyone who attended. I am going to try and give you a glimpse of some of what happened in the next few blog posts, but you can also find lots of information on social media, on the website, www.Ypres2016.com and on numerous television clips broadcast in countless languages across the world.
Summing up the feeling of the group and all the student crew, Gabe writes,
“I do not know if I can single out any one thing that was my favourite part of the Ypres 2016 International Forging Event, there were so many things that struck me as simply incredible. From the very start, before the tents were even up, I could tell that this was going to be different from any other event I had been to. The organisation of the entire event was phenomenal and the atmosphere was buzzing with energy. Hundreds of blacksmiths, all in one place, doing what they do best is an awesome thing to behold. The opportunity, as someone who is just getting started, to spend a substantial amount of time talking to and working with the best smiths in the world was exciting and an invaluable experience. I immensely enjoyed working with Will Maguire and the rest of our team on the panel and really appreciated how well he directed the work and got everyone involved in the making. In addition to the work done on the memorial, the chance to participate in the Transition exhibition was a great privilege and I was impressed by the show of work from around the world. The last thing to mention, and the thing that tied everything together from day to day was the chance to be on the crew, an opportunity that provided not only many lasting memories, but a glimpse behind the scenes to see what it actually takes to put something like this event together, and boy was an education in itself!”
For me, being part of the organising committee, being part of an international team of dedicated volunteers who worked tirelessly to make this ambitious project a success, was a real privilege and I count it as being one of the most exhausting and exhilarating achievements of my career, and I am looking forward to the inauguration of the completed peace memorial on 5th November in the small town of Langemark-Poelkapelle, next to the German WW1 cemetery.