Sales of Peace Pledge Union flowers symbolising peace and commemorating war victims ‘exceeding 110,000 of last year’
By Sandra Laville, The Guardian
White poppies, worn as a symbol of peace on remembrance day, sold in record numbers this year, exceeding all previous sales over the last 83 years. More than 110,000 white poppies were sold by shops and cafes, and ordered online across the country, in the run-up to 11 November.
The Peace Pledge Union, which makes the poppies, was so overwhelmed by the demand it was unable to fulfil all the orders and thousands of people received an apology this week for not getting their artificial flowers.
Symon Hill, a coordinator for the union, said he was sorry that not everyone was able to get a white poppy, but celebrated the level of demand for what has become for many an alternative symbol for remembrance day.
“It is really good news,” he said. “The last time we sold out was in the mid-80s when Margaret Thatcher made a statement in parliament expressing deep distaste for the white poppies. That led to the Daily Star attacking the white poppy campaign and we sold all our poppies. But back then that was 40,000.”
In the last three years sales of white poppies have been gradually increasing, with the previous record of 110,000 set last year. “We are still crunching numbers but it is looking likely that we will exceed this in 2016. We have had a huge surge in demand and a big spike in orders. On one weekend alone we had more than 1,000 orders, that is without precedent, ” said Hill.
The biggest rise in demand came at the end of October, when the Royal British Legion launched its red poppy campaign. Hill said many on social media who tweeted using #whitepoppy commented on how they felt the campaign was too militarised and were seeking an alternative. In Exeter the Peace Shop had such demand it reordered its white poppies four times. Hill said next year the union would get its systems updated in order to meet the increased demand.
Social media, used as part of the white poppy campaign for the first time in a concerted way this year, was partly responsible for the huge increase in sales, he said. “Many of those who were commenting were talking about a rise in hate crime and racism and how they wanted to wear something different to symbolise their opposition to all that this year.”
White poppies were first distributed in 1933 by the Women’s Cooperative Guild, due to the concerns and conversations held between the partners of injured and dead soldiers from the first world war.
Thatcher condemned the poppies as deeply distasteful during a prime minister’s questions session in 1986 following a question by Robert Key, MP for Salisbury, who expressed his disgust at the “insulting symbol”.
This article originally found on the Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/nov/16/pacifist-white-poppies-record-sales-this-year