Dr Emma Hanna

In British modern memory the Great War of 1914-18 has been widely accepted as a symbol for tragedy and suffering. This had a profound effect on the ways in which the First World War has been remembered, and Britain’s memory of the conflict has always been contentious. During the centenary period elements of the war have been re-represented and re-remembered in a multiplicity of ways.

To mark the centenary of the signing of the armistice on 11 November, an ‘informal nationwide gesture of remembrance’ titled Pages of the Sea will take place on 12 beaches around the country. The design of the event has been led by the film director Danny Boyle. It is part of the UK’s official arts programme, 14-18 NOW, to mark the centenary of the First World War. A large-scale portrait of a casualty from the war will be drawn into the sand at low tide at each location and washed away as the tide comes in. A poem by poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, specially commissioned by Boyle, will be read by people on the beaches. Members of the public will be asked to join in by creating silhouettes of people in the sand, and in doing so it is intended that they will be remembering the millions of lives lost or affected by the conflict. Boyle has underlined that the beaches ‘are truly public spaces, where nobody rules other than the tide […] They seem 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.’

This chapter will examine the impact of Pages of the Sea in the context of the wider work of 14-18NOW, with particular focus on the media’s coverage of the event. The author will be attending at Folkstone, here BBC Radio 5 Live are scheduled to do several segments live from the beach as the morning of the 11 November unfolds. Interviews will be conducted with members of the BBC crew, key staff at 14-18Now, and where possible, members of the public who will be there as spectators and/or participants.