HONOUR by Quays Culture: A spectacular tribute

Polly Checkland Harding

For the 100th anniversary of the First World War, Quays Culture has curated HONOUR, a powerful event in memory of war.

Honour – it’s a curiously archaic word that’s become more about remembering the past, than a value we cherish in the present. When thinking about how to commemorate WWI in its centenary year, however, it seems like an apt term: how do we do justice to a conflict that both devastated a generation and reshaped British society as we know it? On 2 August, the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of war, Quays Culture has come up with a rousing answer: to stage a huge, sensory, multifaceted event that recreates wartime experiences in the outdoor arena of Media City. Just as the entire UK population was caught up in the war, so too does HONOUR attempt to reach the widest possible range of people – by being free, public and about as grand in scale as it’s possible to get.

Think a “super choir” with row on row of singers, professional dancers performing on plinths amidst the audience

Think a “super choir” with row on row of singers, professional dancers performing on plinths amidst the audience, and audio drama relaying stories from the region’s dockworkers who were enlisted to serve in battle. Think astonishing light shows on the Media City buildings, curated by Craig Morrison (the artist behind the moving “Thank you” laser display in honour of Alan Turing) and German duo Hartung Trenz – who have, in the past, created projections for the ancient city walls of Jerusalem. There are few things so powerful as hundreds of singers heaving together like the chest of the sea; pair this with lines from Welsh language poet Hedd Wyn and fireworks recreating the noise and violence of the battlefield and you’re looking at a commemoration that speaks in the many voices of war.

Also as part of the event, IWM North will be keeping its doors open late (the museum will close at 9.45pm, fifteen minutes before HONOUR begins). It’s a good opportunity to take in a collection of exhibitions surrounding the Centenary: From Street to Trench, which looks both at military life and how the war affected those at home, Vertical Echoes, a sound installation by Bill Fontana and RedBlueRedBlue, a live drawing commission from artist Mark Anstee. So, one hundred years after newspapers and wireless reports would have shaken the British population, make your way to the Quays to stand, watch and remember.

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