Danny Boyle creating sands of time to remember First World War Armistice

The filmmaker is urging artists to create tributes on beaches to be washed away by the tide to mark the centenary.

Faces of the millions of people whose lives were lost or changed forever by the First World War will be etched on to beaches on the centenary of Armistice Day in a “thank you” designed by filmmaker Danny Boyle.

The Slumdog Millionaire director is asking people to gather on beaches across the UK on November 11.

A large-scale portrait of a casualty from the First World War, which could be as large as 50 metres by 50 metres and designed by sand artists, will be washed away as the tide comes in.

The public can also join in by “creating silhouettes of people in the sand, remembering the millions of lives lost or changed forever by the conflict”.

Events will take place at a number of beaches at low-tide.

Boyle, who recently quit making the next Bond film, said that as a “small nation, surrounded by beaches,” the locations for the tributes were a “great stage”.

Beaches are “unruly, democratic places”, he said, where “nobody rules other than the tide”.

Danny Boyle Armistice Day commission
Boyle holds a photograph of Private Walter Bleakley, who was from the same street where Danny went to school (Gareth Fuller/PA)

And he added: “It doesn’t have to be a sad occasion. It could be celebratory.”

He said that creating the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games had changed his thinking.

“London 2012 was a transforming thing in my life because of the volunteers,” he said.

“It taught me a lesson about how much people want to contribute.”

Boyle admitted that the nature of the day will depend on the weather but said: “If it rains, it rains.”

The events will be a “tremulous thank you for all the people who sacrificed so much”.

Armistice day
File picture of a piper playing a lament in front of the names of thousands of British and Commonwealth soldiers at the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium (John Giles/PA)

Pages Of The Sea is described as an “informal, nationwide gesture of remembrance for the men and women who left their home shores during the First World War”.

Millions of people served in the First World War and many left by sea.

Poet Carol Ann Duffy has been invited to write a new poem, which will be read by individuals, families and communities as they gather on the beaches.

Copies of the poem will be available at the beaches around the UK.

The public can also explore an online gallery of portraits of some of the men and women who served in the First World War, and select someone to say a personal goodbye to either via social media or as they gather in person on beaches.

Danny Boyle Armistice Day commission
Danny Boyle at Folkestone Beach (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The images are drawn from the Imperial War Museum’s Lives Of the First World War, which aims to tell eight million stories of those who served from Britain and the Commonwealth.

Visitors to the website can also add portraits of members of their family or community who contributed to the First World War.

Boyle said that his original instinct was that this was a “line in the sand, the final goodbye”, as “the nation moves on”.

“But I have changed, I have to say, in doing the research. I think we should go on commemorating it…

“When you make that personal connection…  it feels timeless.

“I felt that connection to them and it felt it would be wrong to forget them.”

Reception for Contemporary British Poetry
Carol Ann Duffy will write a poem to commemorate the event (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The work is 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.

“I’m a great believer in public service” Boyle said: “We all feel complications in terms of war now…”

He described the “innocence” of those who went to war imagining a “glorious campaign” but faced “slaughter”.

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