How 14-18 NOW showed us the value of art and creativity

To mark the centenary of World War One, 14-18 NOW has staged a remarkable programme of artworks across the UK. We talk to its Director Jenny Waldman about how it has proved the value of art during such national moments

On Armistice Day this year, nearly 100,000 members of the public assembled on beaches across the UK. They came to view large-scale portraits, drawn in the sand, of service men and women, medical staff and others who lost their lives in the First World War. As the waves washed over these giant images, a specially written poem was read out by individuals, families and communities.

This was Pages of the Sea, one of the final projects commissioned by 14-18 NOW. Across three ‘seasons’ of work, 14-18 NOW has marked the centenary of the conflict by inviting artists to create over 325 new works in partnership with organisations and groups across the country. Those works span almost every artform, from dance to digital to film to sculpture to mass participation events such as Pages of the Sea and Jeremy Deller’s We’re Here Because We’re Here. It has been one of the most ambitious and successful cultural programmes ever staged in the UK.

14-18 Now offers up some important lessons for anyone engaged in creative work. Firstly, there was an enormous amount of trust invested in the participating artists.