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June 2016

Jim Carter and Imelda Staunton join Devon Somme concert

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From Plymouth Herald
By Martin Freeman

Acclaimed actors Jim Carter and Imelda Staunton are to feature in a Devon concert marking the Battle of the Somme centenary.

The couple will join celebrated folk band Show of Hands for the event in Exeter Cathedral on July 1.  The concert will conclude a day of commemorations beginning with the unveiling of a major art project remembering every man killed on the bloodiest day in British military history.

Jim is best known for his role as Carson the butler in ITV’s ratings-topper Downton Abbey for which he was nominated for an Emmy.

His wife Imelda won four Olivier Awards including for her performances in the musicals Sweeney Todd and Gypsy, and is familiar to Harry Potter fans from her roles in the films.

They will read poems by war poets such as Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and Rupert Brooke against musical backcloths composed by Show of Hands.

“We were delighted to be asked to work on the centenary project,” said Imelda. “The music is beautiful and the poems work so well. It is very moving and we feel very proud to be a part of it.”

BBC award-winning singer-songwriter Steve Knightley and multi-instrumentalist Phil Beer will be joined by their long-term collaborator Miranda Sykes at the concert.

A day of commemorations will begin at 7.30am, 100 years to the minute from when the whistle was blown for the troops to “go over the top”, as 19,240 hand-stitched calico shrouded figures are revealed in Northernhay Gardens in the city.

Each figure in the 19240 Shrouds of the Somme Project represents an allied serviceman who fell on the opening day of the battle. The losses included at least 700 from the South West. Rob Heard, an artist from Somerset, and Steve conceived the project.

Meanwhile, Show of Hands are releasing a single and video to mark the centenary. The Gamekeeper, which will be available to download from July 1, tells of a young man from Devon sent to the trenches and the impact on his life.

Devon’s Lost Sound Chorus will also take part in the evening concert, which will raise funds for the 19240 Shrouds of the Somme project, with profits to be donated to armed forces charity SSAFA and The Exeter Foundation – the Exeter Chiefs’ rugby club charity – to be distributed among local and military causes.

The concert will feature songs and poetry from Show of Hands’, album Centenary – Words and Music of The Great War, which also featured Jim and Imelda.

Tickets for the 7.30pm concert, priced £15 to £25, are available from Exeter Cathedral on 01392 285983 or online at exeter-cathedral.cloudvenue.co.uk/Showofhands

Remembering every man who fell on the first day of the Battle of the Somme

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The 19240 Allied soldiers who fell on the first day of the Battle of the Somme are to be individually remembered in an unique and historic centenary art project.

On 1 July 2016, exactly 100 years to the day later, at the same time as the whistle was blown to ‘go over the top’, 19,240 hand-stitched shrouded figures representing every soldier will be revealed laid out in Exeter’s Northernhay Gardens.

The names of the fallen have been marked by the artist Rob Heard who has seven volumes of the War Graves Commission’s lists of those who died. As each shroud is completed he reads the soldier’s name out loud and symbolically crosses them off the list.

The team behind the project are now appealing for volunteers to help on the day. Group Captain Robin Chambers, representing the Armed Forces charity SSAFA who will benefit from the project, said:

“SSAFA was there in 1916 to support the families of those who fell at the Somme and, since 1885 has supported all service personnel and their families. The 19240 Shrouds of the Somme Exhibition is another way in which we can show that we are here to help.

“The exhibition captures the brutality and emotional impact of service life and, as an all-volunteer charity we are honoured to be asked to supervise the exhibition and assist the public.

“As the exhibition will be very popular, we are recruiting volunteers for 1-7 July to assist us in interacting with the public, reading the names of the fallen and selling the shrouds.”

Anyone who would like to volunteer to help can apply online at www.thesomme19240.co.uk

The team behind the project also see this as an opportunity to create a lasting legacy commemorating those who fell and are asking for the public to upload photos, stories, memories and any further information on individuals to build up a picture of them to commemorate them at www.thesomme19240.co.uk/The-Fallen/

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