In June 2019 Liz and I watched the unveiling of a model horse in Loughborough’s Queen’s Park which commemorates the story of Songster, a chestnut gelding taken to war from the town in 1914 but who returned against all odds in 1919, living out the rest of his days in peace and comfort on a local farm.
We’d been invited by members of the Carillon Tower and War Memorial Museum, who’d commissioned us the previous year to produce a picture book of Songster’s story the to mark the centenary of the ending of World War One.
At the unveiling of the model – which was done by the grandson and great-grandson of the Loughborough man who looked after Songster in France – and listened again to the story of Songster’s remarkable experiences, Liz and I suddenly thought how great it would be to have a blanket of purple poppies to drape over it at the Carillon’s Remembrance Service that year. We’d need hundreds of poppies and had less than five months to sort it out – could it be done?
The answer proved to be ‘yes’ – with the support of the people of Charnwood and beyond, who sent us handmade poppies by the hundreds, invited us into schools to make them with children, and turned up at workshops we held around the county to make some with us. Some of them even came to Charnwood Museum the day before the event itself, to help us attach the poppies to the wonderful horse blanket created for us by a volunteer.
Many, many people saw and commented on the wonderful piece of community artwork that is Songster’s blanket that November, with sales of the surplus poppies raising money for the War Horse Memorial charity who had first given us the idea. There was no public commemoration of the Armistice in Queen’s Park in 2020, but Songster wore his blanket again in November 2021, and we hope will do so every Remembrance Sunday event at the Carillon for many years to come.