TENS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE GATHERED ON BEACHES AROUND THE UK FOR DANNY BOYLE’S ARMISTICE DAY COMMISSION
ACTIVATE PERFORMING ARTS TOOK PART IN A UK-WIDE GESTURE OF REMEMBRANCE MARKING THE CULMINATION THE ARMISTICE CENTENARY, WITH EVENTS IN WEYMOUTH AND LYME REGIS
On 11 November 2018, tens of thousands of people took part in Pages of the Sea – a commissioned art project by filmmaker Danny Boyle, inviting people to gather on thirty-two beaches around the UK for a nationwide gesture of remembrance for the men and women who left their home shores during the First World War. The work marks the culmination of 14-18 NOW’s 5 year project which was a UK-wide arts programme, leading up to and marking the First World War centenary. Activate Performing Arts presented the events in Weymouth and Lyme Regis, which were attended by thousands of people from Dorset and beyond.
photo still from footage by Harbour Media and Eagle Vista
- Pages of the Sea is the largest simultaneous coastal arts project to take place in the UK
- Estimates suggest over 14,000 people attended the Dorset beach events in Weymouth and Lyme Regis
- Taking place on Armistice Day, the project saw tens of thousands of people join in a series of community-led events on thirty-two beaches around the country
- At Weymouth and Lyme Regis, singer-songwriter Billy Bragg led packed open-mic sessions with members of the community joining to share personal memories, poetry and song
- The project was a new, inclusive and collaborative way to pay tribute to those who gave their lives to the First World War
- Those unable to attend could take part online, with over 81,000 people visiting the Pages of the Sea website
In Dorset, large scale portraits of Private Stanley Robert McDougall VC, an ANZAC soldier, and Rifleman Kulbir Thapa VC, the first Gurkha to be awarded the Victoria Cross, were drawn into the sand on Weymouth and Lyme Regis, and washed away as the tide came in – representing a small selection of the millions who gave their lives to the war.
The portraits featured across the thirty-two beaches were chosen by Danny Boyle to represent a range of stories – ordinary people who gave their lives to the War effort, from doctors to munition workers, Privates to Lieutenants and Majors. A number of the portraits were of notable war poets, who translated the experience of war for those at home.
Many – including the Dorset soldiers – were from international communities of The Commonwealth. Some beaches were able to depict individuals who were from their own region or community and some beaches featured individuals linked to towns and cities inland. All were selected to cover the widest range possible and to show the breadth and scale of the devastating loss.
In addition, beach visitors were asked to join the commemoration by creating silhouettes of people in the sand, remembering the millions of lives lost or changed forever by the conflict. Over 380 such figures were created by the public in Weymouth and 320 in Lyme Regis.
Musician Billy Bragg attended both Dorset events, taking part in open-mic sessions where members of the community shared stories, poetry and memories inspired by their personal connections to the First World War.
Integral to the UK events, Poet Carol Anne Duffy was invited by Danny Boyle to write a poem to mark the centenary of Armistice Day. The poem, The Wound in Time, was read by individuals, families and communities as they gathered at Weymouth and Lyme Regis.
Cards were distributed on beaches featuring over 14,000 different images of casualties from the First World War drawn from records held on the Pages of the Sea website, which includes records uploaded by the public and linking directly to the Imperial War Museum Archives; ‘Lives of the First World War’ website, which aims to tell 8 million stories of those who served from Britain and the Commonwealth. Visitors to the website have been adding their own portraits of members of their family or community who contributed to the First World War: www.livesofthefirstworldwar.org
Kate Wood, artistic and executive director of Activate said: “Everyone here at Activate was honoured to be on the beaches in Lyme Regis and Weymouth with the community: sharing poems, memories and creating distinctive portraits of the soldiers and other men and women that served and sacrificed over the course of the First World War. It was incredibly moving that young and old took part, travelling here to be together and marking one hundred years since the end of World War One.”
Danny Boyle said: “Beaches are truly public spaces, where nobody rules other than the tide. They were the perfect place to gather and say a final thank you and goodbye to those whose lives were taken or forever changed by the First World War. I invited communities to come together and watch as the faces of the fallen were drawn in the sand and to remember the sacrifices they made. Thank you to all the teams for their endless efforts to pull off a beautiful tribute to those represented and a special thank you to the hundreds of volunteers who made the day happen.”
Jenny Waldman, Director of 14-18 NOW, said: “Danny Boyle devised a truly memorable project – directed and inspired by local communities all around our coastline. Pages of the Sea was a fitting tribute to the millions of men and women who lost their lives in the First World War. 14-18 NOW extends a huge thank you to Danny Boyle and to all our partners and volunteers who made this project such a success”.
Pages of the Sea was commissioned and produced by 14-18 NOW and is the culmination of the five-year programme of arts commissions marking the First World War centenary. It was delivered with partner organisations across the UK: National Trust; Activate Performing Arts; Creative Foundation; Eden Project; National Theatre Scotland; Nerve Centre; Sunderland Culture; Taliesin. The work is in association with Aberystwyth Arts Centre; The Grand Theatre of Lemmings; Magna Vitae; MOSTYN; SeaChange Arts; Swansea Council; Swansea University; Theatre Orchard; and Visit Blackpool. Each partner organisation was invited to create their own event centering around the sand art on the beach and reading of the poem, tailored to reflect the sacrifices of their local community. The community engagement programme for Pages of the Sea is supported by the Big Lottery Fund.
Supported by The National Lottery and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
With additional support from Backstage Trust, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch) and National Rail.
Dorset events funded by Dorset County Council, West Dorset District Council and Weymouth and Portland Borough Council. Supported by Arts Development Company and Lyme Regis Town Council.