A mass public event backed by the Government is being planned to commemorate the centenary and will echo Sir Edward Grey's famous epitaph "the lamps are going out all over Europe".
People will be encouraged to switch their lights out in favour of a single light on August 4, 2014, which will mark 100 years after Britain declared war on Germany. The ‘Lights Out’ scheme is one of a series of arts events planned to mark the centenary of World War One. People from all four nations will be invited to turn off their lights and to replace them with one single light to remember a day that changed the world forever.
A Late Night Prom will precede the Lights Out event which will take place at the same time a candlelit vigil of prayer, readings and music held in Westminster Abbey. During the event, candles will be extinguished one by one until a single flame is extinguished at 11pm.
“Culture is part of the fabric of British society. Ensuring a cultural element flows throughout the centenary will be vital part of our commemorations, particularly as a way of engaging young people and helping them make that connection with the past, " said Culture Secretary, Maria Miller.
“The 14-18 Now cultural programme will help all of us to pause in remembrance and to understand the resonance of the First World War today.”
Events will take place over the next four years and will centre around three key moments: the declaration of war, the start of the Battle of the Somme and Armistice.
The ultimatum that led to war…
Germany’s Schlieffen Plan was born in response to the events that had occurred in Sarajevo in June 1914. Conscious of the great might of Russia and France, the German military hierarchy had doomed Belgium to an invasion. Britain had guaranteed Belgium’s neutrality as far back as 1839.
The declaration of war on Germany was an ultimatum, led by Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, who had given Germany an ultimatum to get out of Belgium by midnight of August 3rd, 1914. The reply was in effect a rejection of the British demand and subsequently war was declared.
Asquith had to make a decision — to act or not to act —this decision was one that would have a big impact on British society and its history. What would you have done?
Asquith chose not to turn a blind eye to war in mainland Europe so instead he stood up to the bullying of Germany. But, it’s impossible to tell what impact not getting involved could have had on Britain...
The first leg of the official cultural programme, entitled 14 -18 NOW, begins in June and will culminate on the important date in August. The programme is funded by a £10m grant from the National Lottery and £5m each from Arts Council England and The Heritage Lottery Fund.
War touches many people's lives. Is your family's military history waiting to be discovered? Look at the Forces War Records’ range of records and historic documents and let us help you with your genealogy quest…
Events to look out for as part of the 14-18 NOW Cultural Programme:
Letter to an Unknown Soldier: Sebastian Faulks, Andrew Motion and Stephen Fry will be among 50 writers taking part in a project inspired by Charles Jagger's statue in Paddington Station of a soldier reading a letter from home. The public will also be invited to write their own letters, which will be published online and stored in the British Library's digital archive
Dazzle Ships: Artist Carlos Cruz-Diez will paint a version of a 'Dazzle Ship' - a method of painting ships in bold patterns to make them a confusing target for enemy artillery - in Liverpool's Albert Dock
Shot at Dawn: photographer Chloe Dewe Mathews will present images of the locations where British, French and Belgian troops were executed for cowardice and desertion
The Proms: a specially-themed Late Night Prom will be held on the anniversary of the declaration of war
Live Music Now: young professional musicians will visit elderly people at lunch clubs and in care homes, recording their recollections and using them as inspiration for songs
Charlie Ward: inspired by the fact Charlie Chaplin shorts were screened on the ceilings of hospitals for the war wounded, audiences will lie in hospital beds to watch a performance that includes Chaplin excerpts
Does It Matter? Disability and the First World War: five contemporary disabled artists will present their takes on the legacies of war and disability in Britain today
BalletBoyz: a new full-length show taking inspiration from images of the First World War.
Visit: www.14-18now.org.uk for more information.