“Pages of the Sea” art project recognised with ADCE’s Creative Distinction Award

The creator of the piece, one of UK’s most renowned filmmakers, Danny Boyle, received the award last 21 May in the framework of the D&AD Festival in London and shared some insights to the project with a jam-packed audience.


The art project “Pages of the Sea” has been awarded with ADCE’s 2019 Creative Distinction Award, a recognition for creativity with a profound social and cultural impact. The Distinction was collected last 21 May by the English filmmaker Danny Boyle in the framework of D&AD Festival.


In a conversation with Patrick Burgoyne, Boyle gave some context to the project in front of a jam-packed audience at the Old Truman Brewery in London: “The art project was meant to be the final event of “14-18 Now”, a five-year series of commemorative art commissions to mark the centenary of the First World War. It took place on 11th November 2018, coinciding with Remembrance Day, on 32 beaches across the UK and Ireland. The brief was really open, and I wanted to create a unique, participatory and poetic homage to the millions who left their shores to serve in the war, and especially to those who never returned.”


Boyle and the producer of the project explained that the piece invited communities to gather on the beaches and collectively draw huge size portraits of people who lost their lives during the conflict. Designed by sand artists Sand in Your Eye, these portraits became only graspable from the sky, and while they were slowly erased by the sea coming in, participants collectively read aloud the sonnet “The Wound in Time” by the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy.


The Wound in Time

It is the wound in Time. The century’s tides,
chanting their bitter psalms, cannot heal it.
Not the war to end all wars; death’s birthing place;
the earth nursing its ticking metal eggs, hatching
new carnage. But how could you know, brave
as belief as you boarded the boats, singing?
The end of God in the poisonous, shrapneled air.
Poetry gargling its own blood. We sense it was love
you gave your world for; the town squares silent,
awaiting their cenotaphs. What happened next?
War. And after that? War. And now? War. War.
History might as well be water, chastising this shore;
for we learn nothing from your endless sacrifice.
Your faces drowning in the pages of the sea.

Danny Boyle, who directed the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games and award-winning films like Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours and Steve Jobs, recently decided to reject directing the latest James Bond movie to focus on the “Pages of the sea” project. He said it allowed him to devote his attention to “real heroes, rather than fictional ones”.


The portraits he chose represented a range of interesting stories of ordinary people who gave their lives to the war effort covering a range of ranks and regiments, from doctors to munition workers, Privates to Lieutenants to Majors. On Redcar beach (North Yorkshire), one of the locations chosen for the nation wide homage, the image of Private Theophilus Jones, was etched into the sand because he was the first British soldier to die on English soil during World War One when on 16 December, 1914, while guarding the Heugh Gun Battery in Hartlepool, German warships bombarded the town, targeting an iron works and shipyards. On his particular choice of setting he said he had chosen beaches because they were “dramatic, unruly, democratic” places where “nobody rules but the tide”, but also places of hope.


Conveying the message by land, sea and air, “Pages of the Sea” created a moment of national reflection that engaged with local communities around the UK and Ireland while also creating international awareness. It made the place into the medium and the message, brought the community together and became a poetic homage to the ordinary people that sacrificed their lives for the lives of the future generations.


The ADCE Creative Distinction award exists outside of the traditional ADCE Awards programme, and it focuses on creativity that has a profound social and cultural purpose. It is decided upon by the ADCE board, comprised of representatives from each of the 22 member clubs from across Europe. Previous winners include 4Creative’s “Meet the Superhumans” campaign, Jean Jullien’s “Peace for Paris” design and Hasan & Partner’s “Teen Maternity Clothing” campaign.

For more information about the piece visit: www.pagesofthesea.org.uk

Dara Lynch, Chief Operating Officer at D&AD & UK Board Member of ADCE, and Mercè Segú, ADCE’s Executive Director, giving the diploma to Danny Boyle.

Photo Credit: D&AD – Zbigniew Kotkiewicz