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Fierce Light

10 May – 4 June 2016

Fierce Light is a world premiere exhibition. Perhaps no art form captured the complexity, terror and waste of the war more acutely than poetry.

10 May – 14 June 2016
Tuesday – Saturday: 12 – 5pm, free admission.
East Gallery

On the first day of the Battle of the Somme over 19,000 British soldiers alone perished. During the five month battle over 1,000,000 men were killed or wounded. How do we, a century on, move beyond the arresting statistics to connect to the individuals who experienced these unimaginable horrors?

Fierce Light is a world premiere exhibition. Perhaps no art form captured the complexity, terror and waste of the war more acutely than poetry. As we approach100 years since the Battle of the Somme, Fierce Light brings together outstanding international poets and film-makers to create new work inspired by one of the deadliest battles in UK history. The poetry and the films that have been made in response, move from highly personal family histories to the collective trauma and unending violence that binds us all.

Still represents a poetic response to the photographs of the Somme Battlefield by Simon Armitage. Seemingly idyllic landscapes and tranquil meadows conceal ghost towns and macabre detail, creating a rarely-seen visual perspective on conflict. Simon’s new poems (versions of Virgil’s Georgics) have been printed over battlefield imagery by Sarah Krebietke and David Tanguy at Design by Praline. Some of these images speak explicitly of the events that took place on these eerily empty battlefields, while others are abstract, atmospheric and blurred. While the battlefield images are frozen at the moment in which they were taken, Simon’s poems move us backwards and forwards in time through more than 2,000 years, from Virgil to the present day.

Co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW, Norfolk & Norwich Festival and Writers’ Centre Norwich.

Fierce Light includes new poetry commissions by; Simon Armitage, Yrsa Daley-Ward, Jackie Kay, Bill Manhire Paul Muldoon and Daljit Nagra

The films featured in Fierce Light are:

  • Paid to Fight, a film response by Matt Kay to Yrsa Daley-Ward’s When your mother calls you, come
  • Private Joseph Kay, a film response by Matt Kay to Jackie Kay’s Private Joseph Kay
  • Known Unto God, a film response by Suzie Hanna to Bill Manhire’s Known Unto God
  • July 1, 1916: With the Ulster Division, a film response by George Belfield to Paul Muldoon’s July 1, 1916: With the Ulster Division
  • Across Fields, a film response by Tim Davies to Daljit Nagra’s On Your ‘A 1940 Memory’

Graphic Design for Still: Design by Praline; Sarah Krebietke & David Tanguy

Associated publications are available to buy in the gallery:

Fierce Light: Poets Respond to the Battle of the Somme, Gatehouse Press Ltd (2016) (A co-commission by 14-18 NOW, Norfolk & Norwich Festival, Writers’ Centre Norwich and Norwich University of the Arts)

Still, Simon Armitage, Enitharmon Press, (2016) (A co-commission by 14-18 NOW, Enitharmon Press in association with the Imperial War Museum)

Readings of the commissioned poems, along with extracts from the short films, will take place at a special event at Norwich Playhouse on Friday 13 May.