The end of the First World War came with Armistice Day, which is now honoured with our Remembrance Day celebrations. Arms were laid down at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year, an arbitrary moment chosen to end the four years of turmoil that had spread across Europe, but a moment that has become embedded in everyone’s consciousness since then.

However, this November 2018 Remembrance Day is particularly poignant as we celebrate 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1.

But as well as remembering those who paid the ultimate sacrifice during WW1 & WW2, our thoughts and prayers must also go out to all those service men and women who have lost their lives and been maimed in other conflicts around the world since WWI.

Heroes like former British soldier, David De Souza, who served as a private in 23 Pioneer Regiment before training as an engineer. After several tours in Northern Ireland, two tours of Bosnia under the UN and NATO, David returned to Iraq, working for 4 years in the private security sector, protecting clients including former Prime Minister Gordon Brown as they visited the country to rally British troops.

During his deployment in 2007, David, from Manchester, suffered a broken back, a severe head wound, and a brain haemorrhage that left him temporarily blind after he used his jeep to block the path of an assassin driving a truck laden with explosives while on protection duty in the war-torn country, and is still struggling to recover from the effects of his nightmare ordeal 11years on.

However, a few years ago, whilst still facing his many demons, David discovered a way to resolve much of his internal conflict through creativity, when he began to combine art with his engineering skills.

Hearing how art therapy has had much success in helping individuals who are experiencing emotional and psychological challenges, achieve personal well-being and improved levels of function; as a result of David’s horrific brain injuries, David’s physiologist discovered that his brain does not switch off from what his doctors call ‘operational mode’ and with his PTSD, found that in David’s case, every little issue is highlighted.

He explained that repression, or the brain’s attempt to send difficult thoughts straight into the unconscious supports clients in handling their trauma. This phenomenon is observed frequently in trauma victims, who claim to have no recollections of the disturbing events. That’s why many experts view art therapy as a way to tap into these unconscious thoughts and memories and bring them to the surface, so that individuals can heal and reconcile them.

David explained in his own words, that inspired by the poppy display at the Tower of London, he fell back on his metalworking skills and initially started fabricating metal poppies.

“After seeing the finished fabrications, I created four 8ft giant poppies and placed them in my local church, St Saviour, then invited all the children in the area to make their own poppies and place them next to mine; and they paid a pound for the privilege! Doing that helped raise £9000 for the Royal British Legion. Following that display I was inundated from people asking to have a miniature metal poppy and that’s how I started making them.”

He continued; my wife Lisa would then take stalls at local craft fairs where she would sell them, which is how my journey into painting came about. One day I visited a stall at one of the fairs at which a lady was selling paintings, and after having a conversation with her, I went straight out and purchased some oil paints and a canvas.”

“Once I’d put brush to canvas I found that I became more relaxed which allows my brain not to over think, I push away catastrophes and stop the tendency to hyper-vigilant; so painting keeps me calm.”

“Now, during the day I’m in the workshop fabricating all manner of flowers from poppies to roses and sunflowers, flower arches and remembrance benches, and in the evenings, I do my paintings. So you could say that my art is a 50/50 split from metal fabrication and oil paintings!”

Every Metal poppy that David sells or any painting he produces that has a poppy on it the Royal British Legion receives 10% as he has agreed a corporate partnership agreement with them; which mean David raises money for them all year round.

Anyone wishing to see more of David De Souza’s work, both ‘Oil on Canvas & metal sculpture work’ can do so throughout the month of November, where a wide range of unique artwork will be displayed at The Peoples’ Gallery in Stalybridge.

Gordon Clegg, representing the popular community gallery said, “We are delighted and deeply privileged to be able to bring David’s work to the people of Stalybridge and the wider Tameside area.

Describing David’s individualist creative work, he said, “David continuously adds new footage to his highly sort after collection, creating a highly personal and ever-evolving composite works of art. Some may say that there’s certainly a heavy novelty factor dominant in many of David’s works, but the bittersweet experiences behind the subject matter; the craft and technique is undeniable.”

Much of the work on display features dark to light shades of grey and this technique and its application are what distinguishes the subject matter from the conventional and allow us to see his work as a specific accomplishment rather than a mere silhouetted type!”

I asked David what his next goal was to be. Which he answered, “For inspiration I have visited the poppies around the country and the National Arboretum. I like to keep busy and my next inspirational trip will hopefully be Everest base camp!”

Call in to The Peoples’ Gallery and see firsthand the art of a very remarkable gifted artist and true ‘local hero’