Tower of London's Ceramic Poppies Raise $12.8M for Six Service Charities

By Karen Bliss 11/26/14 |

Tower of London's 888,246 ceramic poppy art installation has now been removed. Funds raised from the sale of each one will be distributed equally to six service charities — photo credit: Jeremy Bliss

About 8000 volunteers helped to dismantle the 888,246 one-of-a-kind ceramic poppies that decorated the moat of England’s Tower of London and now the millions of British pounds raised from the sale of each one will be distributed equally to six UK service charities: Cobseo, Combat Stress, Coming Home, Help For Heroes, The Royal British Legion and SSAFA (formerly the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association).

Each poppy, representing each person who died during WWI and marking the centenary of Britain’s involvement in that war, sold for £25 ($44.2 CAD). The net proceeds, plus 10 percent, will go to charity, which original reports put in excess of £15 million ($26.52M CAD), but the figure given to Samaritanmag by Historic Royal Palaces is less than half that, £7.2 million ($12.8M CAD).

“Each charity is expected to receive in excess of £1.2 million [$2.13 CAD],” Pauline Stobbs, press officer at Historic Royal Palaces, wrote in an email to Samaritanmag. "We won't have a more accurate figure till the project has ended ie. all the poppies have been delivered." The original figure was not accurate as it did not take into account production costs, she said.

Coming Home explains the expenses on its web site

“These costs to be recovered have been incurred by Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity that cares for the Tower of London, and Paul Cummins Ceramics in manufacturing, transporting, installing and selling the poppies as well as VAT. There are also additional costs after the installation is taken down including dismantling, cleaning and distributing the bought poppies. Historic Royal Palaces and Paul Cummins Ceramics will not profit from the sale of the poppies.”

Titled Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, the poppy was designed by Cummins, a ceramic artist, and all of them handmade by a team of helpers — “70 percent are artists but they all actually have a direct link to a member of the armed forces or people they know who have died,” Cummins said in the making of video. Stage designer Tom Piper came up with the setting placement at the Tower of London, which amounted to 16 acres of the flowers planted around the dry moat.

Over the summer, beginning Aug. 5, an estimated 19,000 volunteers helped install them. The last of the 888,246 poppies was planted on Nov. 11, Armistice Day, as it is called in the U.K.

Jeremy Bliss, an Australian tourist and cousin of this reporter, visited the site and told Samaritanmag that “The sea of red poppies that poured out of the Tower of London, each representative of a dead soldier, was powerful not only for its ability to give perspective of what hundreds of thousands look like, but for the droves of Britons and tourists who, quietly, pensively and awe-struck, baby-stepped around the temporary memorial.”

Tower of London's Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red — photo credit: Jeremy Bliss
The following provides a brief description of the six charities receiving funds from the spectacular art installation.

Cobseo maximize the charitable support to the Armed Forces Community through co-operation, co-ordination and collaboration of organizations working in the Service Charity sector. 

Combat Stress is the UK's leading military charity specializing in the care of Veterans' mental health, treating conditions including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety. 

Coming Home is the fundraising campaign for Haig Housing Trust, which provides specially adapted homes for seriously injured and disabled Servicemen and general needs housing for ex-Servicemen and their families.

Help for Heroes inspire, enable and support those who have made sacrifices on our behalf to achieve their full potential. 

The Royal British Legion is the nation's largest Armed Forces charity, providing care and support to all members of the British Armed Forces past and present and their families. 

SSAFA provides lifelong support to anyone who is currently serving or has ever served in the Royal Navy, British Army or Royal Air Force and their families. 

In addition to purchasing a ceramic poppy, people were also able to donate to the cause by making a dedication in honour of a loved one who had previously served or is still serving in the military. They could also simply make a donation.

The independent charity Historic Royal Palaces recently announced that two large-scale metalwork structures featuring thousands of ceramic poppies will travel to a number of locations around the UK from 2015 to 2018, thanks to donations from the Backstage Trust and the Clore Duffield Foundation, along with government funding.

Titled Weeping Window and Wave, the two artworks will then go on permanent display at the Imperial War Museums (IWM) in London and Manchester as one of the 14 – 18 NOW legacy projects.

“The poppies installation at the Tower of London has captured the public imagination,” said Michael Day, chief executive of Historic Royal Palaces, in a press statement. “We have been overwhelmed by the support and generosity of everyone involved, from the many volunteers that have helped plant the poppies over recent months, to the hundreds of thousands of people who have bought the poppies and will give them permanent homes across the UK and beyond.

“It has always been our intention that the poppies installation would have a legacy beyond 11 November, so we are delighted that a part of this unique commemoration can be shared by the nation. We are grateful to the donors and to the Government for making this possible.”

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