The legacy of Ripon's WW1 commemorations: what happens next

The Chairman of Ripon Royal British Legion, Jeet Bahadur Sahi leads the Remembrance parade down Kirkgate.
The Chairman of Ripon Royal British Legion, Jeet Bahadur Sahi leads the Remembrance parade down Kirkgate.

Ripon’s Armistice Day commemorations have made such an impact that talk’s already turning to how the city can sustain its extraordinary efforts.

Residents, businesses and community groups have completely thrown themselves into organising all sorts of events, concerts and art displays to mark the centenary, and their hard work has attracted both regional and national attention.

Eager to continue the momentum, the Dean of Ripon, the Very Rev John Dobson, said: “Ripon can be very proud of the way it commemorated the centenary of the Armistice, giving people from both the city and visitors from further afield an opportunity to reflect and remember.

“One of the wonderful dimensions was how the whole community came together. Looking forward, I hope that the city will grow in confidence in a spirit of joint working and common purpose, and that together we can help it to realise that potential for hospitality which it undoubtedly has.

“I was particularly pleased with how many people connected with the Cathedral as a focal point during this period of Remembrance. To have 1,900 people attending the Remembrance Service was itself historic, not to mention the 5,000 who had streamed through the Cathedral the day before to see its Remembrance exhibitions including the Fields of Mud, Seeds of Hope installation.”

City resident Helen Mackenzie said: “I have always loved Ripon but I have never felt as proud of being a Riponian as I have this weekend - and by Riponian I mean everyone who loves our city, not just those who were born here.

“Ripon is on the map - our centenary celebrations and light show are being heralded as the best in the nation. And at the root of it all, the three words that have fuelled the entire campaign - Lest We Forget.”

Stuart Martin, who has spearheaded Ripon Community Poppy Project alongside Hazel Barker, said: “I think everybody now knows that Ripon is the place to come for Remembrance.
“Children really engaged with it, and I hope we can build on it and continue to remember all the people who lost their lives in the First World War, Second World War and other conflicts.”

Ripon has seen a surge in footfall over the last few weeks, attracting visitors from across the country to see its poppy displays and the Remembrance light show projected onto Ripon Cathedral.

The owner of Ripon’s Sun Parlour Cafe, Caroline Bentham, said: “As a small business owner in Ripon, the effect of the community poppy project has far outweighed any expectations. We have had a definite increase in trade form people coming to see the displays and popping in for a coffee and cake.

“It has been really great to have conversations with visitors from far and wide about why the project started, how dazzling it is, how poignant it is, how emotional it is and how our city has pulled together to pull it off.

“We have heard stories of visitors travelling for hours to see the displays of poppies, the silhouette soldiers and the fields of Mud, Seeds of Hope sculpture.”

Ripon’s poppy displays can be seen until November 22 - after that, the process of carefully taking them down will start, ready to be used for next year’s Armistice Day commemorations.
Stuart hopes that this year’s centenary events have inspired residents of all ages to remember and reflect all year round, including schoolchildren - the memory of taking part in the Remembrance parade staying with them forever.

Michelle Gee, whose seven-year-old son Xander took part in the Remembrance parade, said: “I was very proud of Xander and his fellow pupils from Moorside. Like the children from other Ripon schools, they stood for some considerable time, in the rain, and did so with patience and solemnity. It’s been important for them to understand what this centenary has been about and to take part in something that has drawn everyone together. There was a real sense of belonging at this poignant event.”

Reader Diane Thompson said: “The day was dour, misty, wet and cold - fitting weather for the wreath-laying. But as we ended the service in the Cathedral, the sun came out and shone on us through the windows. I took that as a thumbs up from above that Ripon had done it right.”