AN RSC set designer and co-creator of the acclaimed Tower of London poppy memorial has spoken of his pride at being awarded an MBE.
Tom Piper, who has worked with the RSC for more than 20 years, was named in the New Year honours list for services to theatre and First World War commemorations.
The 50 year-old, whose work features in the company’s current production The Christmas Truce, worked with ceramic artist Paul Cummins on Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, which saw 888,246 ceramic poppies installed at the Tower to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.
A team of around 17,500 volunteers helped to put the poppies – representing the number of British and Colonial troops who lost their lives during the Great War – in place and between July and November an estimated five million people visited the spectacle.
Tom said: “I am so pleased for everyone involved in what was a monumental project.
“It just wouldn’t have been possible without the thousands of people who volunteered, including many people at the RSC who all played a part.
“When we were doing research for Christmas Truce we visited a lot of war memorials. They were incredibly moving but we wanted to create something a bit different, which told a story about the loss of life.
“We were able to do this with the design and the theatrical metaphor of the poppies representing blood.
“There was a level of ownership to the whole thing as well and I think people saw each individual poppy as a soldier, someone who may have been in their family who gave their life. I think that really captured people’s imaginations.”
Tom recently left his position as associate designer after a decade but will continue to work with the company on a freelance basis.
“One of my biggest highlights at the RSC was definitely working on The Histories cycle,” he said.
“Then of course being involved in the creation of the Courtyard and the new RST was very special.
“But I’m also very proud of having set up a trainee designer scheme which has now seen 20 young artists come through and go on to do some great work.”
The RSC’s former head of music, John Woolf, was also awarded an MBE for services to music.
He said: “It came as a great surprise to be awarded the MBE in this year’s honours list. I have had the privilege to have worked at the RSC for over 30 years as musician and music director. I have always felt myself to be part of a strong committed group of players. The honour goes to my colleagues as much as myself.”
And Johnathon Bate received a knighthood. The Shakespeare expert from Preston-on-Stour, was commended for his services to literary scholarship. He was a professor at Warwick University for a number of years before taking up the role of Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford and Provost of Worcester College.
He is a Governor and Board member of the RSC and also edited the company’s edition of The RSC Shakespeare: Complete Works.
* Valerie Anne Morris, from Claverdon, was made an MBE for services to children including her role as Divisional Vice President for the NSPCC.
Roger Whorrod, who lives near Alcester, was made an OBE for his services to philanthropy. Mr Whorrod works as a council member for the University of Bath.