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Communicator of the Week: We’re here because we’re here

So, much been happening since my last column? The first half of 2016 has been news and event heavy. As part of this we have seen significant communication moments, momentous political campaigns and monstrous lies. All of which have left the British people excited and energised or worried and weary in equal measure.

My sabbatical from this column has been through my involvement in a major political campaign which left me drained. With politics everywhere I therefore wanted to begin with a positive piece of communication away from the back-stabbing and double dealing of political world.

A hundred years ago this week began what was expected to be a war winning battle on the western front. The “big push” was anything but - 20,000 British soldiers were killed on the first day. That is roughly equivalent to my every man, woman and child in my home town of Evesham in Worcestershire being killed. In one day. By the end of the battle - which would rage on until the winter of 1916 - over 400,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers had become casualties.

These big numbers communicate the awful scale of the loss of life but often are simply too big for us today to make a meaningful connection to the past. If we had relatives who fought in the battle it makes it far easier but most do not.

The “we’re here because we’re here” project bridged the gap between 1916 and today, bringing soldiers who died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme into 2016. Thousands of volunteers dressed in First World War uniform appeared unexpectedly in locations all over the UK . The effect was breathtakingly powerful, even haunting. Each participant represented an individual soldier who was killed 100 years before. They handed out cards to the public with the name and regiment of the soldier they represented and the age of the soldier when he died.

It was a brilliant idea conceived by award winning artist Jeremy Deller and executed superbly by the National Theatre and the Birmingham Reperatory Theatre. Supported by strong social media activity and securing national media coverage it succeeded in paying tribute to the men who died. “We’re here because we’re here” also broke down the barrier of time between now and the past while making it clear these were ordinary people like you and I who went over the top to their deaths at 7:30am on July 1st 1916. This is why this excellent initiative is my Communicator of the Week.

Communicator of the Week is written by Edward Staite.

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