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PM plants poppy as display extended

Prime Minister David Cameron planted a ceramic poppy at the Tower of London after he announced a key part of the emotive artwork will remain until the end of the month.

Mr Cameron was joined by his wife Samantha, who also planted a poppy, as thousands more visitors crowded around the Tower to get a glimpse of Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red.

The artwork c reated by ceramic artist Paul Cummins, with setting by stage designer Tom Piper, features 888,246 ceramic poppies which have progressively filled the Tower's famous moat.

The piece has proved so popular with visitors that it has been decided that t he Wave section of the artwork will remain on show until the end of the month so more people have the opportunity to see it at the Tower.

Floodlights have already been installed to allow the poppies to be viewed after dusk after overcrowding in the area forced the closure of nearby Tower Hill Tube station and prompted a plea last weekend urging to visitors to postpone their plans.

Despite a campaign for the poppies to remain long term, Historic Royal Palaces, which runs the Tower of London, has said it intends to start dismantling the artwork on November 12 - the day after Armistice Day - as planned.

A team of 8,000 volunteers has been lined up to start removing and cleaning ceramic poppies, before dispatching them to buyers who have paid £25 each to raise money for armed forces charities.

But after he announced the Wave would remain in place for a few extra weeks, Mr Cameron said the installation, created to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War, had become a "much-loved and respected monument" in a short space of time.

The Wave and the Weeping Window will also go on a tour of sites across the UK until 2018 so as many people as possible can see them. They will eventually go on permanent display at the Imperial War Museum.

The tour will be funded with donations from the Backstage Trust and the Clore Duffield Foundation, as well as £500,000 from the Government.

"I think the exhibition of the poppies has really caught the public imagination, people have found that incredibly moving," Mr Cameron said.

"What we've managed to do is find a way of saving part of the exhibition for the nation and making sure it will be seen by many more people.

"Then it will be permanently saved by the Imperial War Museum - I think the right place for it to be - and something that marks the fact that everybody has found it so moving, so poignant, and such a brilliant idea.

"By displaying parts of the installation around the country and then permanently in the Imperial War Museum, we have ensured that this poignant memorial will be saved for the nation."

Chancellor George Osborne said penalty fines paid by banks over the Libor-fixing scandal would be used to fund the tour.

"The Tower of London poppies are a striking reminder of the sacrifice that over 800,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers made to protect our freedom during the First World War, so I'm delighted that £500,000 of Libor fines will be used to ensure that people across the country will be able to see this moving tribute over the next four years," he said.

"To support the current generation of brave servicemen and women who continue to protect our freedoms every day, we're also using Libor fines to waive VAT on the sale of these poppies, with proceeds going to military charities.

"It's only right that fines from those who have demonstrated the very worse of values should go to support those who have shown the best of British values."

Culture Secretary Sajid Javid, who leads the Government's programme to mark the centenary of the war, added: "The poppies at the Tower are a stunning memorial to those who died in the First World War.

"I had the honour of being allowed to plant one of the poppies myself and, like the four million or so people who have gone to see them, I was left in awe at the sheer scale and strength of the piece. For me this is public art at its most powerful and moving."

General the Lord Dannatt, Constable of the Tower of London, said: "We are delighted that key elements of Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red - the poppies installation at the Tower of London - which has so captured the heart of the nation, are to be preserved for many more thousands of people to see and appreciate over the coming four years.

"All at the Tower of London and Historic Royal Palaces are most grateful that this wonderful community art project will continue for the next four years."

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: "When you stand among the poppies it is easy to appreciate the argument of the artist, that the life each poppy represents was fleeting, a reminder of young men cut down in their prime, and that the display is transient for that very reason. It's a solemn and deeply moving place.

"The logistical issues around keeping the display in place were always challenging but the idea of extending the time people can see the Wave segment, whilst illuminating the poppies late at night and early in the morning until Armistice Day, is good news. It does at least give more people a last chance to visit and to reflect."

Dan Jarvis, Labour's lead on the centenary commemorations, said: "It is great news that parts of Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red have been extended. Many more people across the country will now have a chance to share in this incredible artwork.

"A century on from the outbreak of the First World War, the Tower of London poppies have beautifully captured the scale of sacrifice from the conflict that gave birth to remembrance as we know it today. I'm not at all surprised that the public has taken it to their hearts.

"Paul Cummins' spectacular display has used the best of British creativity, ingenuity and design to immortalise everyone who laid down their lives for our country. We should also thank all of the 16,000 volunteers who have given up their time over recent months to help make it a reality."

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