Local heroes honoured at WW1 Centenary Event in Tunbridge Wells

PUBLISHED: 17:31 19 October 2014 | UPDATED: 17:31 19 October 2014

Mayor & Mayoress of Tunbridge Wells with pupils from St Augustines, photo by: David Bartholomew

Mayor & Mayoress of Tunbridge Wells with pupils from St Augustines, photo by: David Bartholomew

David Bartholomew 2014

A spectacular community event to commemorate the centenary of the First World War took place at West Kent’s largest shopping centre in Tunbridge Wells when the aptly named ‘Poppy’ Show held at Royal Victoria Place featured nearly 100 local young performers showcasing their talents

Headline acts on the night, which was in support of The Royal British Legion, included The London Ballet Company and The Virgin Soldiers and the Cast of The Dreamers.

The ticket-only event which was held at Royal Victoria Place also featured performances by several local schools and youth organisations to include uplifting music by the Sea Cadet Band of TS Brilliant, poppy themed fashion creations and music by pupils from Hillview School for Girls and a few special effects to include a black-out scene with air-raid sirens.

Organiser of the event and Marketing Manager for Royal Victoria Place, Marc Burchett commented: “We were delighted by the overwhelming support for this event and thank everyone for their generous contributions to the valuable work of the Royal British Legion. All of the performers on the night were just amazing and the feeling of pride felt was quite overwhelming. It was a great tribute to the honour of our fallen WW1 heroes that so many of our local young people were able to play such an important role in this act of remembrance for our town centre.”

More than 300 guests attended the special event which was held outside of the centre’s normal trading hours. This meant centre staff having the tough job of transforming the Palm House area of the shopping centre into an auditorium able to accommodate 300 seats, lighting rig, tech set and dressing facilities – all within one hour of closing!

The event was attended by a number of dignitaries and VIP’s to include the Mayor and Mayoress of Tunbridge Wells which opened the event by lighting the candle of remembrance together with pupils from

St Augustine’s Roman Catholic School. Other dignitaries attending included, The Mayor of Tonbridge and Malling, Cllr David Dukes, Leader of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and William Benson, Chief Executive of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. Laying a commemorative Poppy wreath on behalf of the people of Tunbridge Wells was Colonel James Partridge, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Kent who was representing

The Lord Lieutenant of Kent and HM The Queen.

Gary Faulkner, Chairman of The Royal British Legion, Tunbridge Wells Branch commented “We at The Royal British Legion in Tunbridge Wells are proud to work in partnership with Royal Victoria Place and recognise the valuable work they do for the Ex-Services Community. Without their support we would not be able to raise the amount we do every year for the Poppy Appeal, to carry out our welfare work within The Legion.”

Mr Faulkner added “With such a high quality show on Monday night it shows how Royal Victoria Place and The Royal British Legion are working with the young in our community to bring remembrance and the sacrifices of our ex-service men and women in all conflicts to the fore. All the performances were carried out with real compassion and dignity.”

The Virgin Soldiers and the cast of The Dreamers performed two songs from their forthcoming show which opens at the Assembly Hall Theatre next week. James Beeny and Gina Georgio, have written a contemporary and inspiring musical drama called ‘The Dreamers’ which is about David Reginald Salomons, a little known World War I hero from Kent, who led his men to Gallipoli in 1915. Named after the poem by WWI poet Siegfried Sassoon, ‘The Dreamers’ is a musical drama, with a combination of narration and music to tell the story.

The evening included a special ‘Poppy’ themed fashion show featuring 20 designs by students from Hillview’s School for Girls Fashion & Textiles Department. All clothing was designed, made and modelled by students from years 10 to 13 using ex-military garments to create new fashion outfits using a range of techniques. Before the climax of the evening got underway, Buglers from the Sea Cadet Band of TS Brilliant played a moving last post from a balcony overlooking the audience.

The grand finale of the event saw the audience enjoying a World premiere performance by The London Ballet Company of their WW1 themed production ‘Poppy’, which opens at The Bridewell Theatre in London later in this month. The London Ballet Company’s production starkly portrayed the havoc wreaked by global War on ordinary people. Seen through the innocent eyes of the child ‘Poppy’, the ballet follows a family struggling to come to terms with the cataclysmic turn of events in 1914, as they seek to do their duty and rally to their nations cause. The turmoil of family life forever changed, innocence lost, Poppy remains like the flower for whom she was named, a symbol of hope and remembrance.

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