It is always interesting how ideas evolve and that so many are not epiphany’s or Eureka moments. In creative thinking there is no such thing as a bad idea, as even the obscure ones can trigger better ideas and when bounced off someone else with a different way of thinking, can become truly wonderful.
This was the case with The Fallen as its emergence was very organic. Firstly Andy Moss came up with a concept of symbolising fallen knights with armour on a battlefield, I added we could simply draw them in the sand and make hundreds of them. To which Andy put a location, as he had the previous year visited the D-Day Landing beaches with his father. This excited us a great deal, but over weeks it dwindled and passed from our minds, as it had no real significance and we were concerned how people would interpret it.
It was many months later whilst driving in the Big White Van in Wales that I started slapping the steering wheel and shouting to Andy, “I know what it is! I know why we will do it! The fallen will be a visual representation of the people that lost their lives, so that people can see what that many people looks like!” At this stage we still did not know who we were representing. At first it was just the allies but then it dawned on us that this should be a demonstration in what happens in the absence of peace and it was here that we decided that we must include German forces and Civilians too. The project was to be representative of human loss regardless of where they came from or what they were fighting for. So it was over a year that the final idea was formed which is neatly put below:
“The Fallen Project was to make a visual representation of 9000 people drawn in the sand which equates the number of Civilians, Germans Forces and Allies that died during the D-day landings, 6th June during WWII as an example of what happens in the absence of peace.”
The People that made the idea happen
Unfortunately an idea alone is a very delicate thing that can blow away in the wind as easily as it comes into our minds without the people to make it happen and often the Fallen Project did flutter away out of our busy minds. But we stuck to it and tried to overcome the fact that we wanted to do a project in a foreign county where we would need permission, without any money and with currently no volunteers to achieve it. It was never going to be easy but together the folk from Sand In Your Eye were going to do their best to achieve it.
Fortunately we were very lucky that so many people believed in the Fallen 9000 project and really worked hard to make it happen. We had Pyper York volunteer to do the PR, Sam Havers and Rich Spence on travel & accommodation, Andy Firth on the website, Finn Varney preparing for filming, Thomas Bolland learning how to fly helicopters, Claire Jamieson and Katie Philips working on participation and then Andy Moss and myself Jamie Wardley tweaking away all over the place. All these people worked tirelessly in their spare time. Uriah Woodhead then kindly supplied us with all of the materials for the event, which was substantial: “Can we have 130 rakes please!” And that was just the short of it.
During this period we did test days to see how quickly we could do it, pieces of art to promote the event, workshop days to make all the stencils and countless meetings to keep things going.
And then we had the amazing Dusty Rhodes come in towards the end and really drive things forward so that we made our date and transformed the event from just a piece of art to a whole experience.
International Peace Day: 21st September
On the day we had 60-70 confirmed volunteers that had travelled from around the world to help. The village of Arromanches had been amazing and had offered for us to stay for free in their municipal campsite and have use of their village hall or Salle des Fetes in French. This was a wonderful theatre and hall where we planned, ate and stored all our equipment. It also had a fantastic cooking facility in which my good friends Sparrow and the Copleston’s made our meals. It was a joyous place.
Still, it played on my mind as we knew that 60-70 people although a significant number was not enough to complete the project in the 4.5 hours that we had. We had three BBC channels come to film including The One Show, BBC Coast and BBC Look North. To not achieve the number in front of national television was not too much of a concern, what troubled me was that I had personally convinced so many people to travel from all over the world at their own expense to come and be part of this day. We could still make a very good piece of work but it would not be the 9000. It was only at around 11am when Claire came to me and that I had some relief: “Jamie I’ve just been in the square and there are so many people excited about it, I really think we can do it!”.
So at 3pm when we were about to begin, we were overwhelmed by the hundreds of people that turned up to help. Myself and Andy stood on the lookout with Dusty Rhodes interpretation in French quite amazed. With eager eyes upon us we began to explain the task ahead and how it was going to mark International Peace day.
At this time the sea was just going out and had revealed enough sand for us to do a demonstration on. So, we and the hundreds of people walked onto the beach to see how we were going to make The Fallen. Myself and Andy placed a stencil on the ground and began raking the area. During this we were explaining the logistics of how to rake, how to count all of the drawings and also carry the stencil.
However, when we lifted the stencil it revealed a single prone figure drawn into the sand with all of us stood around it. All was quiet and I realised then that we had just made together the first of the Fallen 9000. A representation of a person that once lived, they had parents, family friends. This person had died prematurely due to a conflict and we were marking his passing. When I make a sculpture or a drawing in my imagination that person is for a moment very much there, I will often find myself talking to them to see what they are thinking and how they are feeling, there becomes a connection between them and I. The person that we had drawn was very present indeed, we had made a connection and I was for a moment overwhelmed with emotion, which is a strange thing when hundreds of people are waiting for you to tell them what to do. Andy and Dusty had to continue.
After that hundreds of people took stencils and rakes in hand and embarked on drawing the 9000. The Peace Day project had finally begun in earnest represented by the people of the world.
Of those people that were there were my mother, partner, & friends. This is poignant as when a person looses their life, these are the people that are effected. What was profound, were the people that turned up that I had never met. They believed in the same thing we believed in, a statement of Peace. Monika Kershaw was there remembering her son and his colleagues that Died in Afghanistan and even wrote in their names beside them. George, a veteran who was on the D-Day beaches was also there and embraced the importance of the project as demonstrating the result of conflict. There was a group from Israel that drew together, people from Germany, America, Canada, Finland and as far as Chile.
During the day I was running up and down the cliffs taking photographs. What I found is that in this region there are many relics and monuments to the war but it is always difficult to visualize what the actual human loss was. On Peace Day we quietly and harmoniously drew 9000 people in the sand so that people can understand the loss with their own eyes. This was a quiet day with a very loud statement. The message of the Fallen has now travelled the globe, those people that lost their lives are no longer with us but on Peace Day 21st September 2013 they spoke.
Thank you to all those people who helped give them their voice.
Here is the story as capture by BBC’s Coast
Here is a the story as reported by Joe Inwood on Look North with an interview with Andy who dashed back to the UK after the event.