Everyone is familiar with the traditional symbols, places and times associated with Remembrance Day. This year’s Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal, launched just under two weeks ago, hopes to sell 45 million poppies, the nationally recognised symbol of remembrance in the UK. Yet, the 2012 Poppy Appeal also incorporates a new and innovative method to encourage society to mark the 2 minutes silence at 11am on Sunday 11th November. By using the social media tool “Thunderclap” it is intended that the same message will be posted simultaneously on thousands of Twitter and Facebook profiles as a symbol of remembrance. In doing this the Royal British Legion’s appeal for remembering the fallen moves into a new space of remembrance, alongside the more traditional commemorations that take place at the Cenotaph in Whitehall and at local war memorials across the country.
Changes in the spaces and acts of remembrance have this year also been the subject of geographical consideration. The work of Jenkings et al. (2012) “Wootton Bassett and the political spaces of remembrance and mourning” uses print media analysis to consider how the Wiltshire market town became a nationally recognised space of remembrance as a result of British military action in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the course of their work they explore how this space spontaneously became a site of memory and remembrance, yet a site that ultimately became temporary in nature following the decision to relocate the destination of repatriation flights away from RAF Lyneham. It is therefore clear from both the innovative use of spaces and symbols by the Royal British Legion and the temporary use of urban areas as spaces of memory and remembrance that geography still has much to offer and yet much to learn about the contemporary uses of space.
In July this year, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall unveiled a memorial to the victims of the London bombings of July, 2005. The 52 stainless steel pillars, which are inscribed with the date, time and location of the bombings they represent, now stand permanently in London’s Hyde Park.
Memorial has oft provided Geographers with ways to explore the relationship between self and landscape, subject and world. However, writing in Transactions, John Wylie re-frames the literature on the cultural politics of place, memory and commemoration, and thus goes beyond interpretations which are predicated on the materiality of memory.
Memorial might be thought of, suggests Wylie, not as “embodied engagements with and by the world” (282), but rather as specific instances of absence, distance, loss and haunting. Here, where absence is “constitutive of the entire experience”, memorials become instances where there can be little connection between “visible and the invisible, seer and seen” (287).