Giant beach artwork at Roseisle to mark 100 years since armistice

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As morning breaks over the Moray Firth on Sunday 11 November, a giant portrait will emerge on Roseisle Beach to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

And as the tide rolls in and washes it away, local people who lost family in the Great War will mark their own losses in an alternative act of remembrance.

Pages of the Sea

Roseisle Beach
Roseisle Beach, where a giant portrait will emerge of Captain Charles Sorley on the centenary of Armistice Day. Picture Marc Hindley

As one of six beaches in Scotland and 30 in the UK, Roseisle will form part of Danny Boyle’s Armistice Day commission for 14-18 NOW, Pages of the Sea.

The National Theatre of Scotland in partnership with Findhorn Bay Arts have commissioned the portrait of Captain Charles Hamilton Sorley to be featured in a 30-metre artwork on Roseisle beach by local artist and furniture maker James Chitty.

Captain Sorley was an Aberdeen-born British Army officer and Scottish war poet, and was killed by a sniper in October 1915, in the aftermath of the Battle of Loos in France.

His image will be raked into the sand to create a giant portrait 30 metres tall, and the public are invited to watch the artwork unfold and make their own images in the sand as a gesture of remembrance for the men and women who left their home shores during the First World War.

The five other beaches across Scotland are St Ninian’s Isle beach, Ayr Beach, Scapa beach in Orkney, St Andrews’ West Sands and Cula Bay beach on the Isle of Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides.

Poignant poetry

Scottish poet Carol Ann Duffy has been invited by Danny Boyle to write a new poem, which will be read by individuals, families and communities as they gather at Roseisle and beaches across the UK and the Republic of Ireland on 11 November. Copies of the poem will be available at the beach for those who wish to come together or to offer their own personal contribution.  

The public is also 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 say a personal goodbye to either via social media or as they gather in person on beaches on 11 November. The images are drawn from the Imperial War Museum’s ‘Lives of the First World War’ which aims to tell 8 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.

Devastating impact on Scotland

Jackie Wylie, artistic director and chief executive of National Theatre of Scotland, said, “The First World War had a devastating impact on Scotland, with tens of thousands of young lives lost and many more forever altered. Our nation has an enduring and emotive connection to the sea and our beautiful coastline has seen many come and go throughout history.

“Pages of the Sea will create an artistic tribute, both personal and communal, through art, words, pictures and stories, acknowledging all those who left our shores during WW1.

“As a theatre without walls, the National Theatre of Scotland welcomes this poignant opportunity to help bring communities together in this fitting act of remembrance.”

Kresanna Aigner, artistic director of Findhorn Bay Arts, said, “It’s a great privilege to have this project come to Moray and for local people of all walks of life to have the opportunity to reflect and participate in this unique remembrance event here on Burghead Bay beach.

“Findhorn Bay Arts works to bring creativity, people and place together and Pages of the Sea epitomises this ethos in what is sure to be a remarkable and emotive experience.”