Poignant portraits in the sand mark 100 years since the end of the First World War
Tens of thousands of people gathered at beaches in Cornwall, Devon and around the UK today, Sunday November 11, at poignant events to say goodbye and thank you to the millions of men and women who left our shores during the First World War.
Four beaches in Cornwall and one in Devon were among 32 across the nation where crowds came to see giant sand portraits of fallen soldiers created as part of Pages of the Sea, Danny Boyle’s Armistice Day commission marking the 100th anniversary of the ending of the war.
The portraits were designed by sand artists Sand in Your Eye and drawn below the high tide line, allowing them to be washed away as the sea came back in, offering a moment for everyone to say a collective goodbye.
The Eden Project, with support from The Lost Gardens of Heligan, led the events at Porthmeor Beach in St Ives, East Looe Beach, Perranporth Beach and Saunton Sands in Devon. There was also an event at Porthcurno Beach near Land’s End where the National Trust took the lead.
Peter Stewart, Executive Director at the Eden Project, said: “We are incredibly honoured to have been part of Danny Boyle’s Pages of the Sea commemoration and I would like to thank everyone who has come out onto the beaches today.
“One hundred years after the ending of the First World War it is deeply moving to see so many people, young and old, taking part in these events to remember, thank and say goodbye to all those who left our shores during the War.”
Pages of the Sea is the culmination of 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary.
Poet Carol Ann Duffy was invited by Danny Boyle to write a new poem The Wound in Time, which was read by individuals, families and communities as they gathered on the beaches.
At Porthmeor Beach big crowds turned out under sunshine and blue skies out to commemorate Captain Edward 'Teddy' Hain including his great nephew and niece Tim and Kit Hain.
Cornwall-based theatre company WildWorks led a community choir performing a specially-commissioned song in his memory while his portrait was created in the sand.
Captain Hain was the son and heir of Lady Catherine and Sir Edward Hain, a prosperous Cornish shipping magnate and land owner.
A member of the Cornish Squadron of the 1st Devon Yeomanry, he was killed in action at Gallipoli on this day in 1915 aged 28.
Tim said: “Our great uncle’s is a sad story. He was going to lead our family but he lost his life and his father died of a broken heart.
“This is a fitting tribute. We are all just faces in the sand really. That is why we have to make the best of it and look after each other while we are here.”
Tim and his sister Kit who are musicians have campaigned for the reopening of the Edward Hain Hospital in St Ives named after their great uncle after it shut in 2016.
Big crowds turned out at East Looe Beach to commemorate Captain Kenneth Walton who was born in Pelynt as the son of a reverend and beloved brother. He was killed in action at 23.
Songs were performed by Looe Valley Choir, Keltique Choir and a Sea Scouts group while East Looe Pioneers Running Club performed a specially choreographed performance.
At Perranporth Beach many people turned out to commemorate Archie Jewell who survived the sinking of the Titanic, only to perish in the sinking of a hospital ship in 1917.
Members of Hall for Cornwall Youth performed alongside an interactive installation created by Cornish artists and there was spontaneous applause after the two-minute silence at 11am.
Children joined in by creating silhouettes of people in the sand, remembering those who took part in the conflict.
Hundreds of people visited Saunton Sands to remember Ralph Cumine-Robson who was a member of the 3rd Company, 1st King George’s Own Sappers and Miners.
Just days after being promoted to captain he was killed in action in December 1914 aged 26.
Taking part in the commemorations were Devon-based Wren Music whose choir performed songs written for the home front. There will also a drumming performance and pebble art workshops.
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 goodbye and thank you 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.”
Jenny Waldman, Director of 14-18 NOW, said: “Danny Boyle has devised a truly memorable project – directed and inspired by local communities all around our coastline. Pages of the Sea is 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”.
The public have been invited to explore an online gallery of portraits of some of the men and women who served in the First World War, and select someone to thank and say a personal goodbye to either via social media or as they gathered in person on beaches today at www.pagesofthesea.org.uk.
The images are drawn from the Imperial War Museum’s ‘Lives of the First World War’ which aims to tell 8 million stories of those who served from Britain and the Commonwealth. Visitors to the website can also add their own portraits of members of their family or community who contributed to the First World War. www.livesofthefirstworldwar.org
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.
More information is available on www.pagesofthesea.org.uk