Tens of Thousands Gathered Beaches Around the UK for Danny Boyle’s Armistice Day Commission

On 11 November, tens of thousands of people took part in Pages of the Sea – a commission 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, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary.

·       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
·       A new, inclusive and collaborative way to pay tribute to those who gave their lives to the First World War
·       Social media reach was over 130 million
·       Thousands took part in community projects in the preceding weeks, discovering their local history
·       A livestream of the Folkestone event was on the BBC News homepage for most of the day
·       Pages of the Sea is the largest simultaneous coastal arts project to take place in the UK

Large-scale portraits of casualties from the First World War, designed by sand artists Sand In Your Eye, were drawn into the sand on each beach 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 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 were from the regions or communities they were depicted in, with others from towns, cities and international communities not featured to show the scale of loss.

In addition, the public were asked to join in by creating silhouettes of people in the sand, remembering the millions of lives lost or changed forever by the conflict.

Poet Carol Ann Duffy was also 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 on the beaches on 11 November and online. 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.

The images were also drawn from the Imperial War Museums’ ‘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

IMAGE CREDIT: Sand-portrait of John McCance on Murlough Beach in Northern Ireland c. Kevin Scott/Belfast Telegraph