The dramatic installation on the lawn in front of the terminal building is in the shape of a poppy, with its four large petals each consisting of 500 hand-crafted poppies mounted on green bamboo sticks. It is the same flower as the Royal British Legion Poppy, sold annually to raise money to help service men and women from the conflicts of the past 100 years.
Unveiled just ahead of Remembrance Sunday (11 November), The Commemorative Community Poppy Garden is a special dedication to remember the fallen of Southend and Rochford, who lived and served their country in its time of need a century ago. It is particularly poignant the garden is located here, as it was actually the First World War which saw the creation of the site as a base for flying.
Glyn Jones, CEO of Southend Airport, says “The Poppy Garden is a wonderful project that has involved people of all ages from our local community coming together to pay a very special tribute to the memory of those from Southend and Rochford who gave their lives in the service of their country. It is hugely important to us that the airport is at the heart of the community and engaging with everything that is going on locally, that is why we are very honoured to host the Poppy Garden.”
The Poppy Garden is extended inside the terminal with a huge tapestry created by Ali Ward, a former costume designer for Merchant Ivory films (including Room with a View) who is now artist-in-residence at Kingsdown Special School. She and her pupils created the monumental artwork by recycling discarded red T-shirts and weaving them into a piece that gives thanks to the hundreds of service personnel from the Royal Flying Corps who were stationed at LSA during the Great War when it was called Rochford Aerodrome.
Ali says “This has been such a lovely project as so many people have wanted to be involved. The children have loved choosing their fabrics and weaving the poppies, and all of them have got involved, from ages 3 to 14. Our parents have donated loads of fabric and given their time to cut it and to weave too. I think it is important that 100 years on our children are still learning about the sacrifices that have been made and are still being made to keep them safe, especially these children and their families, who fight many battles themselves.”
Local artist Esme Taylor has been working hard to make the garden a fitting tribute to the local people who fought in the Great War. She said: “Having recently experienced my son’s radiant face as I gave him his great, great grandfather’s WW1 medals I realised the power they had on an 11-year-old who knows very little of the heroes who fought for the young of today. It is so important to educate the next generations about remembrance and real heroes of the past and present. Our aim is for the community to come together and enjoy the art work of local artists young and old in a place to reflect and to remember the war heroes and our own personal heroes we have loved and never forgotten.”
The Poppy Garden will remain in place until Thursday 22 November 2018.