The Royal British Legion’s annual Festival of Remembrance took on added significance this year with the centenary of the Armistice marking the end of World War One. Kate Dawkins Studio was commissioned by the RBL and the BBC to create two visual sequences to accompany poems, readings, and music during the ceremony, which was broadcast live on BBC One.
The first sequence, a six-and-a-half-minute projection accompanied the narrative of World War One and the Armistice, with poems and readings by Michael Palin, Adrian Lester, and Nina Wadia. The second, four-minute piece accompanied the Descendants part of the programme in which cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason performed Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. A large number of guests carrying pictures of their descendants joined this performance on the floor with the entire audience standing throughout holding photographs of those who also lost their lives in the conflict.
The canvas was a 4 sided cube made from 6m x 18m automated projection gauzes. The transparent nature of the gauze added a beautiful and ethereal effect to the content, which worked beautifully for both the invited audience and the viewers at home. This, however, gave us a creative challenge in the design process, to ensure that when the camera cut to a close-up of the actors, we would have content in the right place on the gauze.
Our work is very much about design and craft, and although this was a digital delivery, it was important to represent the analogue nature of this period. Most of the type was created on an old typewriter, other type, masks and mattes created by hand and a layer of old film dust and scratches laid over the top to tie it all together. We were lucky enough to be able to work with some amazing imagery, footage and letters, some of it given by the family members, and all of the images (over 1000) for the Descendants sequence were donated.
It was a huge honour to work on such a beautiful and significant event. Although we had a very small budget and tight production schedule it was one of the most successful and most viewed Festival of Remembrance to-date. By the end of the show, 7.5m people were watching on BBC One, 40% of the viewing audience.