Tommy – There But Not There – in Fenton

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In Fenton you may have seen “Tommy” – a remarkable silhouette which has been placed at various locations around the town. Read Jackie Gregory’s article to find out why? 

In a pub in Fenton sits a man enjoying a pint. He is alone but not alone, for there beside him is a figure, almost ghost-like, made out of Perspex in the shape of a young man.

The silhouette represents a Tommy, the nickname given to British soldiers in the First World War. They have been placed in pubs; schools; the town square and park benches around Fenton, as a reminder of their very human sacrifice. The pub drinker sits beside him and reflects on relatives lost in the wars, or even his own time of military service.

Fenton cultural champions Alan and Cheryl Gerrard of TheArtbay Gallery, Fenton arranged for the Fenton Tommies to appear around the town.

“We placed them in pre-war pubs because these are the places where the soldiers would have had a drink as young men. You see them but you don’t see them and they are not treated as sculptures but human beings who have come back home to Fenton,” said Alan.

“In the square we placed four Tommies and we could see men in their eighties coming to sit next to them, sharing their memories. It was quite emotional.”

These Tommies are part of a national project called “There But Not There” to mark the centenary of Armistice, the ending of the war in 1918. The figures are made by veterans, and the idea is that they commemorate those who died; educate younger generations to understand what led to the deaths of 888,246 British and Commonwealth personnel; and raise money to help today’s veterans who are suffering mental and physical wounds of their service in other more recent conflicts across the world.

On Sunday November 11, the silhouettes will be placed in groups around Albert Square, Fenton where the cenotaph is, so they are present during the Armistice commemorations, which includes the two-minute silence at 11am.

Hundreds of people are expected to attend to pay their respects.