Pages of the Sea by The Cogency

In the darkness before daybreak, on 32 beaches across the UK, Danny Boyle, 14–18 NOW, Sand In Your Eye, and hundreds of volunteers gave a final salute to those who served in WWI

This project was selected as Best in Book in The Annual 2019, CR’s award scheme celebrating the best in creativity 

Folkestone beach is a place of particular significance on Armistice Day – it’s where around 10 million service personnel crossed the Channel to fight in the First World War. “This was the artery through which millions left to serve,” the Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle said at the onset of his public art project, Pages of the Sea.

The war poet Wilfred Owen left for war from Folkestone beach and swam in the sea the day before he departed. He lost his life on November 4, 1918 – exactly one week before the official end of the war – at the age of 25. The beach, therefore, was his last memory of the country for which he served and ultimately gave his life.

Hours before sunrise on the morning of November 11, 2018, 100 years to the minute since the First World War finally came to an end, scores of volunteers gathered on Sunny Sands at Folkestone beach. At the exact same time, hundreds of other volunteers took to other beaches across the British Isles. The timing corresponded to the signing of the Armistice of Compiègne at 6am, 100 years earlier. They worked silently in the darkness, and as sunrise lit up the beaches, the artwork they created in the sands at low tide was revealed. Using stencils, the volunteers traced an imprinted portrait, like a photograph in sand, of some of the people who served. In all, 32 beaches across Britain took part – from St Ninian’s on Shetland to Porthcurno in Cornwall.

As the tide returned, the portraits were washed away: “A final goodbye, and a final salute, to the people who gave their lives,” says Boyle. While the waves washed the portraits away, a poem written by Carol Ann Duffy titled The Wound in Time was read by individuals, families, choirs and communities during the day. “Poetry reported the war in the way social media reports the world now,” Boyle says.

Pages of the Sea formed part of a range of art commissions made by 14-18 NOW.

Commissioner: 14-18 NOW. Marketing & Digital: The Cogency. Media Campaign: Bolton & Quinn Creative Direction: Phil Wilce at TH_NK. Digital PR: Stacey Wright PR.