On 1 July 2016, Manchester will host the national commemoration of the hundred-year anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme.
A service of remembrance will take place at Manchester Cathedral and will be followed by a free commemorative concert in Heaton Park. Like the opening and closing of the Commonwealth Games in 2002 and the Olympics in 2012, the ceremony relies on a team of volunteers and we are looking for hundreds of enthusiastic people to form the ‘Somme100 Pals’ and take part in a unique movement based performance at Heaton Park.
No experience is necessary for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, which is open to anyone aged 18 years and over. Dance experience is not required, just enthusiasm and a commitment to attend a series of rehearsals in June at Heaton Park, and the event itself from 6pm on Friday 1 July.
Volunteer performers will work with choreographer Lucy Hind, co-choreographer of the London 2012 Paralympic Opening Ceremony and innovative choreographer Dan Watson and will appear alongside a team of professional dancers. They will also be supplied with a specially made outfit, made by Manchester based Private White garment makers, which participants will be given as a keepsake.
Councillor Sue Murphy, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council said: “Manchester is the focus for the National commemoration of the Somme and this is a unique opportunity to become involved in this landmark event for Manchester. Every year thousands of people volunteer to help with events and projects on the Manchester calendar and they play an invaluable part of the city’s event programme. Why not join us and become part of this special day and make memories which will last a lifetime.”
Alan Lane, Artistic Director said: “The ambition to include as many members of the public in the National Commemoration of the Somme has been behind all our ideas and planning. There’s different ways that people can get involved but I think volunteering in the dance company is going to be one of the most exciting and memorable for everyone involved.”
The free multimedia commemoration on the 1 July features music, dance, drama, film and poetry, paying respect to those who fought and died in the battle which lasted 141 days.
The Halle Orchestra, directed by Sir Mark Elder, will play a number of well-known pieces linked to the war including music by Ravel, Stravinsky, Elgar and Holst. They will be joined by poets, dancers and a three-hundred strong children’s choir from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England.
The concert will end with Poet Lemn Sissay, who will read his poem which has been specially commissioned for the day.
The performance will be directed by Alan Lane, Artist Director of the highly acclaimed Slung Low Theatre Company, well known for its site-specific productions involving hundreds of volunteers and a wide range of communities.
Heaton Park played a significant and poignant role in the First World War as it was used as a training camp for the Manchester Pals, the title given to the thousands of volunteers who signed up to join the army. The Pals were housed in a tent camp in Heaton Park before they were sent for further training.