Irish beaches across north announced for Armistice Day anniversary artwork

Danny Boyle's Pages of the Sea will pay tribute to men and women who left UK shores to serve in the First World War, with large scale sand portraits

Murlough Beach in County Down, Portstewart Strand and Downhill Beach in County Derry~Londonderry and Port Ban Beach, Dunree, County Donegal will join over 30 beaches across the UK and Ireland on Sunday November 11 for Pages of the Sea, Danny Boyle’s commission for 14-18 NOW to mark the centenary of Armistice Day.

The event is an informal, gesture of remembrance for the millions of men and women who left their home shores during the First World War, many never to return.

It will be delivered in Northern Ireland and County Donegal by the Nerve Centre and National Trust, in partnership with Big Telly Theatre Company, Stendhal Festival, UV Arts, Artlink and Live Music Now. Watch Danny Boyle speak about the project in the below video and scroll to see more about the events planned for each location.

Murlough Beach

On Murlough Beach, County Down from 8.30am the portrait of John McCance from Dundrum, a casualty from the First World War will emerge from the sand. And then, as the tide rises at 10.30am, be washed away as the public take a moment to say a collective goodbye.

Rifleman John McCance was born in Dundrum, enlisted in Downpatrick and died at Passchendaele. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot memorial, along with 35,000 others.

Music will be provided by Mourne Community Choir and the public will be asked to join in by creating silhouettes of people in the sand, remembering the millions of lives lost or changed forever by the conflict.

The National Trust is offering free parking at the main visitor car park at Murlough National Nature Reserve, adjacent to the start of the boardwalk which leads to the beach. The cafe will also be open for hot drinks and refreshments.

Portstewart Strand

Between 12pm and 3.30pm, Big Telly Theatre Company are inviting people onto Portstewart Strand to help them create an artwork in the sand using stencils of portraits.  Actors dressed as First World War soldiers can be spotted around the town and a free shuttle bus service will run every 20 minutes from the Promenade in Portstewart town centre to the Strand. The National Trust is offering free car parking on the beach with hot drinks and refreshments available from Harry’s Shack.

Portstewart Strand - image credit National Trust John Millar 2

Portstewart Strand - Photo by John Millar (National Trust)

Port Bán, Dunree

Port Bán, Dunree beach will also unveil a stunning large scale portrait of Seaman John Buckley from County Cork who lost his life, along with 353 others, on the SS Laurentic after it sank at the mouth of Lough Swilly in 1917. Built in Belfast, the liner was used by the government to transport gold during the War and sank after she struck mines laid by a German U-Boat. John is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial, Devon

Attendees can get involved in stencilling and have the opportunity to hear some of the poems written by the community and view the artwork created by local school children. A free shuttle bus will run every 20 minutes, from Dunree Fort to the beach.

Downhill Beach

The day will finish on Downhill Beach with a large 30m square portrait of First World War Nurse, Rachel Ferguson being completed at 2pm. Rachel was the daughter of John Stewart Ferguson and Annie Ferguson, of Lanebrooke House, Moneymore, County Derry. She died on 26th June 1918 at Bordighera, Italy whilst working for Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service. She is buried in Bordighera British Cemetery, Italy.

Members of the public will have a spectacular view of the portrait from Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demesne with Stendhal Festival and Live Music Now providing music from 2.00 to 4.00pm in the Temple.

Free car parking is available on Downhill Beach with free admission to Downhill Demesne and Mussenden Temple. A shuttle bus service will run every 15 minutes, from Downhill Beach to the Lion’s Gate at Downhill Demesne, just a ten minute walk from Mussenden Temple.

Poet Carol Ann Duffy has been invited by Boyle to write a new poem, which will be read by individuals, families and communities as they gather on the beaches on November 11. Copies of the poem are available online and will be available at the beaches for those who wish to come together or to offer their own personal contribution.

Downhill beach

At the launch of Pages of the Sea, Danny Boyle said: '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. I'm inviting people to watch as the faces of the fallen are etched in the sand, and for communities to come together to remember the sacrifices that were made.'

David Lewis, Director of Communications and Digital Content at Nerve Centre said: 'Nerve Centre is delighted to be working in partnership with 14-18 NOW, Danny Boyle and our local partners on this new commission. Pages of the Sea will encourage people to reflect on the profound significance of the First World War and its legacy. Around 200,000 men and women from Ireland served over the course of the war, with many thousands leaving these shores never to return.'

Heather McLachlan, Regional Director, National Trust Northern Ireland said: 'We are delighted that two of our beaches in Northern Ireland have been selected to play host to this incredible event. Providing access to special places is at the core of everything we do. We think that it is important that everyone should be able to join these moving events so we will offering free access to and car parking at Portstewart Strand and Murlough beach (via the National Nature Reserve). We will also be throwing open the gates of Downhill Demesne, including the iconic Mussenden Temple, from which people have an incredible view of the large portrait on Downhill beach.'

The public is invited to explore an online gallery of portraits of some of the men and women who served in the First World War, and select someone to thank and say a personal goodbye to either via social media or as they gather in person on beaches on November 11 at www.pagesofthesea.org.uk. 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 www.livesofthefirstworldwar.org can also add their own portraits of members of their family or community who contributed to the First World War.

The public can see which beaches are taking part by visiting www.pagesofthesea.org.uk and get involved in the conversation online with the hashtag #PagesoftheSea.