Last Friday I met with the film Director Danny Boyle at the Quarterhouse theatre in Folkestone, to discuss a powerful and moving project he will be working on in the town this autumn. Danny is well known for films like Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire, for which he won the Best Director award at the Oscars in 2009. He also directed the magnificent opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, and has now been commissioned by ‘14-18 NOW’ the UK’s official arts programme marking the centenary of the First World War, to create a new artwork to mark the one hundred years since the armistice on 11 November 1918, which marked the end of the hostilities on the western front.
14-18-Now is based at the Imperial War Museum in London and is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Arts Council and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. During the period of the First World War centenaries, starting on 4th August 2014, 14-18-Now has commissioned artists from all artforms, including visual arts, film, theatre, literature, mass-participation events, music, fashion, digital projects, poetry, dance and opera, to make new work inspired by the commemorations of that conflict. Probably the best known of these commissions was the installation of the poppies at the Tower of London, which have also toured the country since 2014.
For the centenary of the armistice, which also falls exactly on Remembrance Sunday this year, Danny Boyle has created a new work, called ‘Pages of the Sea’. At thirty locations around the coast of the United Kingdom, different portraits of servicemen who gave their lives in the First World War, will be created on sand beaches. In Folkestone, this will include a fifty-metre square portrait of the war poet, Wilfred Owen, who spent his last ever night in England at The Grand. The artwork will be created early in the morning of 11th November on the Sunny Sands beach. When the tide starts to come in, which should be shortly after 10.30am that morning, it will cover the image on the beach, and in so doing take it away. ‘Pages of the Sea’ gives us a chance to reflect on the lives of those who were lost in war, and to say goodbye.
Danny Boyle has already visited Folkestone on a number of occasions over the last few months in preparing for his artwork and has said that he will be in the town as well on the morning of 11th November. Whilst this artwork focuses on the life of one man, it will be a moment to remember all of those who served in the war, including those who came back, as well as the servicemen who made the ultimate sacrifice. The beach in Folkestone is a fitting place to do this, and to look out to the harbour arm which witnessed the movement of ten million soldiers to and front the trenches of the western front, during the course of the war.