One of theatre’s most recognisable characters will join veterans and civic leaders to take part in Liverpool’s Service of Remembrance – Joey, the life-size puppet, from the National Theatre production of War Horse.
Sunday’s event (12 November) will commemorate the Battle of Passchendaele – one of the most controversial battles of the First World War, infamous for the scale of casualties and the muddy conditions in which soldiers had to fight – it was also an area where horses were used to transport food and equipment to the front line.
In recognition of the role of horses, the life-size 8ft tall, fifteen stone equine guest will join the city’s civic and religious leaders, Merseyside's Police Commissioner, Jane Kennedy, along with military representatives to lay a wreath in memory of all those who have lost their lives during conflict.
Michael Morpurgo, author of the critically acclaimed book War Horse – on which the play is based – has penned a special reading in honour of Liverpool’s remembrance service which will be relayed to the thousands expected to attend. Following this, Only Remembered, a moving song taken from the play itself, will be performed by Ben Murray (Song Man), accompanied by St Edwards College’s Senior Choir.
An extract from Michael’s reading is as follows:
In the same song of ‘Only Remembered’ from the play, we hear the words: “Who’ll sing the anthem, and who will tell the story?” Well, we will, you will, I will. John Lennon from this city did. “Imagine all the people living life in peace…” Imagining though is only the start. We have to strive for it. Sustaining our freedom and our peace is how we best honour them and remember them.
The event itself starts at 10.40am with contributions from The Band of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment and opera singer Danielle Louise Thomas. Following the Bishop of Liverpool’s ‘Thought for Remembrance Day’, the Last Post will be played which will lead into the two minute silence at 11am.
Thousands of poppy petals will drop from the roof of St George’s Hall, which will be followed by the reading of Michael Morpurgo’s verses. Wreaths will then be laid at the Cenotaph and the service will conclude with a short parade and march past, after which individuals will be invited to lay their own wreaths.
Liverpool’s Lord Mayor, Councillor Malcolm Kennedy, said: “Remembrance Sunday is the most important event in the city’s calendar and it makes me hugely proud that each year, thousands head to St George’s Hall to think about those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us.
“War Horse is a story of courage, loyalty and friendship and Joey will symbolise the incredible, and sometimes forgotten, role of horses during the war.
“The songs and petal drop can only add to what is already an emotional service, and I encourage as many people as possible to come along on Sunday, wear their poppy with pride and show their support for our service personnel, their families and friends, and the hard work and dedication of the Royal British Legion.”
Jane said: “Remembrance Day is a time for us all to reflect on the past and to remember and honour the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice so we can enjoy our liberty and freedom today.
“As I have for many years, I will be honoured to join the Lord Mayor and the people of Liverpool in marking this significant day. I would encourage people from across Merseyside to join us in paying their respect and appreciation for those who served their country and those who continue to serve today by attending a ceremony or wearing a poppy.”
Michael Morpurgo is unfortunately unable to attend Liverpool’s service, but has said: “The National Theatre have taken my story and its message of peace and reconciliation to all corners of the Globe, and carried by puppets. Extraordinary.
“It is no longer my story, but everyone’s story. And most importantly, it is their story, the story of the men and horses who went to war, so many of whom did not come home. I shall be in Liverpool in spirit, in the story, and in my words.”
Please note that on Sunday 12 November the following closures will be in place:
7am-1pm – William Brown Street to Lime Street
William Brown Street to Old Haymarket
9.30am-1pm – Lime Street
St George’s Place
St John’s Lane
Queens Square Bus Station will also be closed from 9.30am to 1pm. For further details on affected bus services and routes, visit www.merseytravel.gov.uk.
Full details can be found here.