On the first day of the Battle of the Somme 20,000 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.

Perhaps no art form captured the complexity, terror and waste of the war more acutely than poetry. As we approached 100 years since the Battle of the Somme, 'Fierce Light' brought together outstanding international poets and film-makers to create new work inspired by one of the deadliest battles in UK history.

'Fierce Light' was a World Premiere exhibition, part of 14-18 NOW, a five-year programme of arts commissions that connect us all with the First World War. It was a partnership project with Norfolk & Norwich Festival and the National Centre for Writing.

Simon Armitage, Still


Simon Armitage, ‘Still’

Simon Armitage has been commissioned by 14-18 NOW: WW1 Centenary Art Commissions, Norfolk & Norwich Festival and Writers’ Centre Norwich to write a sequence of poems in response to 26 panoramic photographs of battlefields associated with the Battle of the Somme chosen from archives at Imperial War Museum, London. The Somme Offensive took place on the Western Front between July and November 1916 and is considered to be one of the bloodiest in British military history. Armitage has written thirty poems of between two and 20 lines that are versions of The Georgics by the Roman poet Virgil. Paired with black-and-white images that are a hundred years old, the contemporary words meld with the visual devastations of war to haunting effect.

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Fierce Light


Feat. Yrsa Daley Ward, Jackie Kay, Bill Manhire, Paul Muldoon & Daljit Nagra.

The changes wreaked on our world by World War One reached beyond politics, economics and technology into the very fabric of our daily lives, our communities and relationships. It was the artists of that war - perhaps the poets above all - who took on the challenge to make sense of a world transformed almost beyond recognition.

To commemorate the centenary anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, Fierce Light brings together outstanding poets from the UK and around the world to look once more at the legacy of battle, the forces changing our world, and the struggles we face to make sense of them.

Published by Gatehouse Press

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