'Mobile Poppy' roadshow to tour Scotland to spread message of remembrance

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An 18-tonne “Moving Poppy” will take tales of remembrance on tour around Scotland under a £750,000 project to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

The specially-commissioned vehicle will feature a micro-museum, a mini-factory for the making of poppies and wreaths, and a classroom for school and community groups.

Visitors will be able to hear recordings of accounts of military life from veterans, as well as view exhibits drawn from the collection of the Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory, in Edinburgh, where 40 ex-servicemen hand-make more than five million poppies and 15,000 wreaths every year.

The charity Poppy Scotland says the "free-to-access and accessible-to-all" mobile unit will be aimed at increasing awareness of the heritage of the the symbol of remembrance and its role as a “a symbol of unity and hope.”

The Heritage Lottery Fund-backed venture is also aimed at helping to ensure that young people across the country are well informed about the poppy and its enduring relevance, as well as issuing facing modern-day armed forces personnel.

Poppy Scotland, which raises more than £3 each year for veterans and their families, is expected to host more than 200 events a year on the road inside the “Moving Poppy”, which will be able to house up to 35 visitors at a time.

Around 150 volunteers and 80 veterans are being recruited to help welcome visitors the vehicle, which will take to the road for the first time this autumn.

It is expected to operate for the foreseeable future, including over the centenaries of the first annual “Poppy Appeal” in 1921 and the creation of the poppy-making factory in Edinburgh five years later.

Plans lodged with the Heritage Lottery Fund last year for the project said the Moving Poppy was envisaged to create “a unique legacy to commemorate the end of the First World War, the on going importance of remembrance, and the historical and contemporary significance of the poppy, especially during the centenaries of the first national poppy appeal in 2021 and Edinburgh’s Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory in 2026.

“The unit would tour Scotland for 220 days annually, promoting our learning opportunities around remembrance to all, no matter what age and stage. It will showcase our services and raise our profile outwith Edinburgh area where the factory is and in priority areas, for example, where there is a need to grow our volunteer base or sign-post potential beneficiaries to our own or local welfare provision.

“We will visit areas high on the Scottish index of multiple deprivation, as well as reaching out to ethnic and multi-faith communities currently under-represented in our supporter base.

“We estimate a potential 50,000 visitors annually could access this facility, many of whom are geographically or economically disadvantaged. It would help ensure there is equal provision and access to our services throughout the country.”

Mark Bibbey, chief executive of Poppy Scotland, said: “The Moving Poppy is an innovative and ambitious project that will provide visitors with a contemporary understanding of remembrance and explore the poppy’s role in modern Scottish society as a symbol of unity and hope.

“It will enable us to reach a much broader geographic audience and an even more diverse range of visitors, building on what we already have here at Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory in Edinburgh.

“It is particularly fitting to be launching The Moving Poppy in 2018 as a lasting legacy 100 years after the end of the First World War.

“It will ensure that the sacrifices made during that conflict, and those since, together with the vital, life-changing services provided by Poppy Scotland today are understood and recognised for generations to come.”

Lucy Casot, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: “While everyone knows the poppy as a symbol of remembrance, this little flower represents so much more in today’s society.

“The ‘Moving Poppy’ is a unique and exciting idea which will expand on the work of the Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory, allowing diverse groups, including rurally-remote and multi-faith communities, to explore all that it stands for. The Moving Poppy is a timely legacy in this First World War centenary year.”