Pages of the Sea in Sunderland

Stuart Forster heads to Roker Beach for a Remembrance Day event commemorating 100 years since the end of World War One, reporting from Pages of the Sea in Sunderland.

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The annual Remembrance Day parade and wreath laying at Sunderland Cenotaph counts as one of the United Kingdom’s largest such ceremonies outside of London.

In 2018, as part of an art event to commemorate a century since the end of World War One, Sunderland’s Roker Beach was a venue for Pages of the Sea.

Similar events were held on 31 other beaches around the country. Pages of the Sea was described as an opportunity for people to say a final goodbye to the combatants of the Great War, fought from 1914 to 1918.

Danny Boyle is the creator of Pages of the Sea. Boyle is the director of films such as Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire.

Shapes depicting British soldiers of World War One raked into sand on Roker Beach in Sunderland as part of the Pages of the Sea Remembrance Day event created by Danny Boyle.
Shapes depicting British soldiers of World War One raked into sand on Roker Beach in Sunderland as part of the Pages of the Sea Remembrance Day event created by Danny Boyle.

Portraits on the beach

Portraits of fallen service personnel were imprinted on the sand of 32 beaches around the country. On Roker Beach, rakes were used to etch the face of Hugh Carr into the wet sand.

Carr served in the Corps of Royal Engineers during World War One. He was from Houghton-le-Spring, a small town six miles from Sunderland.

A former coal miner, Carr served as a Second Lieutenant in a tunnelling company. He was fatally wounded on 21 January 1916 when an artillery shell fell in his trench on the Ypres Salient in Belgium. He died two days later.

Visitors to Pages of the Sea in Sunderland viewed the portrait from Roker Beach, up on the promenade by the Cat and Dog Steps and from the elevated perspective of Roker Cliff Park.

People standing on Roker Beach view a portrait of Hugh Carr, during Danny Boyle's Pages of the Sea in Sunderland, an event to commemorate 100 years since Armistice Day that marked the end of the war.
People standing on Roker Beach view a portrait of Hugh Carr, during Danny Boyle’s Pages of the Sea in Sunderland, an event to commemorate 100 years since Armistice Day that marked the end of the war.

Shapes of Great War soldiers

Visitors to the event had opportunities to rake the shape of a solder from World War One into the sand. Using a template within a wooden frame, people of all ages participated.

Seeing the figures, reminiscent of fallen combatants, prompted some of the thousands of visitors to reflect on the participation of their family members in World War One. Some began weeping.

As the North Sea tide came in the figures were erased from the beach.

Shape of a British World War One soldier raked into sand on Roker Beach as part of Danny Boyle's Pages of the Sea in Sunderland,
Shape of a British World War One soldier raked into sand on Roker Beach as part of Danny Boyle’s Pages of the Sea in Sunderland,

The Wound in Time

Carol Ann Duffy, the United Kingdom’s Poet Laureate, created a poem that visitors could read or listen to. The 14-line work, The Wound in Time, is on the Pages of the Sea website.

A rainbow over the North Sea on Remembrance Day 2018.
A rainbow over the North Sea on Remembrance Day 2018.

Famously, World War One inspired combatants to create poetry. Poems by the likes of Robert Graves, Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon captured the mood of soldiers and the brutal horrors of a mechanised war fought in trenches.

Portrait of Second Lieutenant Hugh Carr on Roker Beach as part of Danny Boyle's Pages of the Sea in Sunderland. The North Sea laps onto the beach.
Portrait of Second Lieutenant Hugh Carr on Roker Beach as part of Danny Boyle’s Pages of the Sea in Sunderland.

Choirs, a brass band and a Northumbrian piper performed by the Roker seafront during Pages of the Sea in Sunderland. Additionally, children were invited to make kites in a workshop.

I was prompted to wonder how participation in the war affected my ancestors. Both of my great-grandfathers survived World War One.

One of them suffered the remainder of his life after being gassed. Many of the service personnel who survived World War One returned home with physical and enduring psychological injuries.

Pages of the Sea prompted reflection 100 years on from Armistice Day.

Cute-looking Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy wearing a poppy on Remembrance Day.
Cute-looking Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy wearing a poppy on Remembrance Day.

Books about World War One

Interested in reading more about World War One? You may find the following books of interest:

The First World War: A Complete History by Martin Gilbert:

The Times First World War: The Great War from 1914 to 1918:


 All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque:


The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry:

 

Further information

See the Pages of the Sea website for more information about the event.

For ideas about things to do and see in the city, see the Sunderland Culture and See It Do It Sunderland websites.

The Royal British Legion website has information about Remembrance ceremonies and sells poppies.

Thank you for visiting Go Eat Do and reading this post about Danny Boyle’s Pages of the Sea in Sunderland. Planning a trip to Wearside? Take a look at things to do in Sunderland blog post that’s on this website. You may also enjoy 8 places in North East England with American names

Stuart Forster, the author of this post, is an award-winning travel writer and lives in the north-east of England. He is available for freelance commissions.

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3 Comments

  • Mark McCain

    November 15, 2018 at 21:33 Reply

    Remembrance services don’t usually interest me but this one was different. Seeing that face on the sand was moving.

  • Graeme Kilpatrick

    November 17, 2018 at 10:09 Reply

    I found the parade in Sunderland city centre service and wreath laying at the Cenotaph very moving. I think Pages of the Sea was very creative.

    • Stuart Forster

      November 17, 2018 at 10:44 Reply

      Thank you. Hopefully both resulting in reflection and remembrance.

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