Pages of the Sea

Film-maker Danny Boyle invited communities to gather on beaches across the UK on 11 November 2018, to mark 100 years since Armistice and the end of the First World War.

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Delivered by Theatre Orchard in Weston, the poignant day of remembrance commemorated the millions of men and women who left our shores, many never to return.

The nation-wide event, held at over 30 beaches across the UK, was a unique moment to say thank you and goodbye, together.

Each event centred around a sand drawing of a large-scale portrait of a casualty from the First World War, created by local sand artists. At Weston-super-Mare beach, over the course of several hours, a portrait of Lieutenant Colonel John Hay Maitland from the First World War emerged from the sand and later in the evening was washed away by the tide in a final moment of goodbye (see biog below).

Carol Ann Duffy wrote a new poem ‘The Wound in Time’ especially for the moment, which was read by individuals, families and communities on the day (see below).

Thousands of people in Weston joined in the day and shared a poignant programme of activity, specially produced by Theatre Orchard to mark this historic occasion. Alongside the large-scale sand portrait, people created their own smaller portraits in the sand using stencils, placed remembrance flags decorated with poppies and personal messages on a bed of sandcastles, were moved to tears by enthralling dance, poetry, music and singing and enjoyed tea and cake provided by Weston WI, under the Grand Pier.

Weston seafront was commemorated with a sand portrait of Lieutenant Colonel John Hay Maitland Hardyman.

Lieutenant Colonel John Hay Maitland Hardyman

Lieutenant Colonel John Hay Maitland Hardyman

Somerset Light Infantry
Born: 1895
Died: 24/08/1918, aged 23

In May 2018, John Hardyman, aged only 23, became the youngest Lieutenant Colonel in the British Army. He was born in Bath to Eglantine Henrietta Keith and George Hardyman, with three brothers and two sisters.

In December 1914, he was accepted for officer training with the Royal Flying Corps (forerunner of the RAF) at Brooklands, Surrey, though eventually served with the Somerset Light Infantry.

Local engagement

A range of creative practitioners worked with communities across Weston in the run-up to the Armistice. Here’s a snapshot of what went on, and how people got involved.


Choreographer Holly Noble and dancers Ebony Jane Kitts and Orion Hart worked with young dancers from University Centre Weston to create a unique movement based re-sponse for this centenary. ‘Pages of You’ took its inspiration from a letter written by Lance Corporal Frederick Swannell to his wife Ellen, whom he called Nell, whilst he was serving in the trenches. Frederick Swannell was killed at the Battle of Arleux, 28th April 1917. His wife, kept the letter in her handbag for over 60 years and it was discovered by her daughters Elizabeth and Charlotte on her death. They kept a photocopy of the letter and placed the original in her coffin to be buried with her.

Holly trained at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and has since developed working relationships with leading companies including Sadlers Wells, English National Ballet, Company Wayne McGregor and The Place. Holly has an MA in choreography, and is particularly passionate about education and outreach, and nurturing future dancers.

Songs from the frontline

By singer songwriter Daisy Chapman, accompanied by violinist Sue Lord.

An evening of poignant music with Daisy’s exquisite voice transported us back in time with a sublime set, including her BBC commissioned song based on letters sent from the frontline in the First World War. It was a beautiful memoir or words sent from a military hospital, recalling soldiers last moments, 100 years ago. It was beautifully moving.

Theatre – Hidden Voices

Theatre-maker Angela Athay Hunt used drama to engage with a wide cross-section of the community – individuals, Weston’s women’s theatre group, Uphill Primary School, residential homes and Bournville lunch club – gathering local stories and drawing out local voices.

These workshops informed the development of a set of characters who gently interweaved amidst the public on 11 November, their narratives created entirely from the historical experiences that have emerged through the prior research process. Breathing new life into times past but not forgotten.

Flags of Remembrance

Many people printed a poppy on their own sandcastle flag and wrote a personal message to the past, present or future that was planted with others on Weston beach as part of the Pages of the Sea event on 11 November.

Artist Helen Wheelock created flags with many groups including schools, lunch clubs, elderly residents, scout cadets, the police and arts groups on Weston’s South Ward.

“The War to End All Wars?”

A local history talk from John Crockford-Hawley

With no physical damage it’s sometimes difficult to appreciate the effects of the ‘Great War’ on Weston-super-Mare, yet not a street or family was left unscathed. Historian John Crockford-Hawley, whose own grandfather perished at Neuve-Chapelle in 1915, discussed Weston’s contribution: men who died, families which suffered, refugees given shelter, emergency hospitals, art in propaganda and our memorials. “The war to end all wars?” This fully illustrated account in John’s own inimitable style was open to people of all ages and levels of interest.

World War Poetry

“The pages of history must never be wiped clean. One hundred years on, we must remember. In this creative writing workshop, we read and appreciated some of the powerful writing that was produced in the 1914-18 War and we had the opportunity to write our own page in the sea of remembrance in whichever way we thought best.” Published writers and experienced workshop leaders Bob Walton and Sue Hill worked with writers young and old from Weston’s Worle community, and also presented this public workshop which was open to all.

Some of the poems created through the workshops were read at Weston Beach on 11 November. Amongst the voices was that of Weston resident and poet Anthony Keyes, whose Great Uncle Herbert Fenton Byrne died at the Somme, aged 23.

Herbert Byrne was the founder of his Battalion’s band, and his violin, which has recently been found and restored, made music once again at the Pages of the Sea event.

Alfred Leete: The Man Behind the Icon

Weston Museum

A recent exhibition, telling the story of the Weston man who created the famous ‘Your Country Needs You’ poster.

Alfred Leete was a graphic artist who produced advertising campaigns for companies including the London Underground and Younger’s Ale. Leete was once described as ‘the funniest man in the world’ and his cartoons gently capture the comedy of everyday life and politics. All these aspects of his career were represented in the exhibition. But his original artwork for the Kitchener poster, generously loaned by the Imperial War Museum in London, was the remarkable centrepiece.

Heritage Schools

Historic England’s Heritage Schools Programme offered free workshops and resources for schools in Weston-super-Mare to support the children in researching the stories of the men named on local war memorials.

The memorial in Grove Park, Weston-super-Mare, has 863 names of local men who died in the First World War.

Commissioned by

Commissioned by 14-18 NOW in partnership with the National Trust, Activate Performing Arts, Creative Foundation, Eden Project, National Theatre Scotland, Nerve Centre, Sunderland Culture & Taliesin 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.

Sand portraits designed by Sand in your Eye.

Supported by The National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England and Big Lottery Fund, 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.

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