Open letter to David Cameron describes conflict as a ‘military disaster and a human catastrophe’
David Cameron’s plan to spend more than £50m marking the centenary of the first world war has been attacked by a group of actors, writers and campaigners including Jude Law and Michael Morpurgo, author of the children’s novel War Horse which is set during the conflict.
Promising a “truly national commemoration”, the prime minister said last year there would be events in 2014 to mark 100 years since the outbreak of the conflict and in 2018 for the centenary of Armistice Day, as well as on the dates of major battles in between.
But in an open letter to Cameron, published in the Guardian, a range of figures also including the musician Brian Eno, the artist Anthony Gormley and the actors Patrick Stewart and Alan Rickman describe the conflict as a “military disaster and a human catastrophe”.
“Mr Cameron quite inappropriately compared these events to the diamond jubilee celebrations and stated that their aim will be to stress our national spirit,” they say. “That they will be run at least in part by former generals and ex-defence secretaries reveals just how misconceived these plans are.”
The letter’s 49 signatories, who also include the film director Ken Loach and the poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, invite the public to add their names to the letter online “to ensure that this anniversary is used to promote peace and international co-operation”.
A total of £50m was being spent on the commemorations, according to the prime minister, who said an advisory board of former defence secretaries, chiefs of staff and military specialists would bring together ideas for the events. There will be a £5m educational programme for schoolchildren, including trips to the battlefields and support for an overhaul of the Imperial War Museum.
Cameron said last October: “The centenary will also provide the foundations upon which to build an enduring cultural and educational legacy to put young people front and centre in our commemoration, and to ensure that the sacrifice and service of 100 years ago is still remembered in 100 years’ time.”