National Theatre of Scotland teams up with Danny Boyle for Pages of the Sea
- David Pollock
- 9 November 2018
Six Scottish beaches join director Danny Boyle's public art remembrance of Armistice
On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 2018, guns fell silent across Europe. The First World War (or the 'Great War', due to the magnitude of the conflict) had come to an end, and with it four years of slaughter which took the lives of brave young soldiers across Europe, all sacrificed on an industrial level by their leaders. With no-one who experienced the horror left to tell us what it was like, it's up to the generations alive right now to find our own ways of paying tribute, and of agreeing that something similar must never happen again.
No stranger to a large-scale act of communal public art, following his opening ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics, Danny Boyle has devised Pages of the Sea, a countrywide act of remembrance which will occur on 30 beaches across the United Kingdom and Ireland on Armistice Day, Sunday the 11th of November. Six beaches in Scotland will be used, with the events leading up to and on the day organised by the National Theatre of Scotland.
'Beaches are democratic, unruly spaces where people can gather,' says Simon Sharkey of the National Theatre of Scotland. 'This is a complementary activity to the more formal events around cenotaphs and the laying of poppies, where people don't just go and remember and connect as a community, but can also have a very personal experience.' Sand artists Sand in Your Eye have designed a portrait of a local person who lost their life in the war, which will be cast into the sand on a large scale and washed away as the tide comes in.
At the same time, members of the public can scratch their own stencil portraits into the sand, whether it be of a local soldier, nurse or munitions workers, or anyone else who served and sacrificed during the war; and a specially commissioned poem by Carol Ann Duffy has been written, which can be read or sung by individuals or groups of people. Sharkey describes the beaches chosen as 'a nice halo over Scotland', picked for their accessibility and the relevance of many of these areas to the soldiers of the war; St Andrews beach, for example, is very close to the Black Watch country of Perthshire.
The precise timings of each event is tide-dependant, with more detailed information on the website. 'These are places for anybody to turn up and participate if they want, or just to witness,' says Sharkey. 'There is an energy on a beach, with the waves coming in to take the portraits away, and the aim is to give a sense of marking time, and of communities marking it together.
'I picked up one story while we were doing this, of a mother who lost her four sons during the war, and of the woman who lives in her house now. This woman walks her local beach every morning, and when she learned of this family, she couldn't but feel the presence of that mother looking out to the horizon and wondering where her sons were buried. We live on an island, and it feels entirely appropriate to look out to all of these horizons and think about the lives that were lost far from home, and the lives that were affected back home because of this loss.'