WW1 commemorative artwork comes to BH

Mosaic of Private James Beaney The mosaic of Private James Beaney was made from 30,500 individual photographs

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The BBC's ambitious coverage of the centenary of the Great War reaches a climax with an artwork of a soldier to be displayed in the piazza of Broadcasting House on Friday.

The mosaic is made up of 30,500 individual photographs which together form the picture of Private James Ernest Beaney, from London, who died in the Somme in 1916.

Visual artist Helen Marshall chose Beaney for the project because of his connection to the era and for having a face which can exist in the here and now.

'It could easily be a portrait of our father, brother or friend, taken yesterday,' she says. 'It has a gentle understated presence, yet when made up of thousands of faces it acquires a special status and speaks to us as individuals whilst evoking our collective memories.'

The commemorative artwork will be available to view digitally, with users able to zoom in and see the individual photos that make up the whole.

Local stories

The idea for the artwork came out of the BBC's ambition to tell more than a thousand local stories that illustrated the war's domestic impact.

As part of the World War One at Home project, members of the public attended road shows in which they could share some of their stories and engage with events that focused on the conflict.

One of these was to get people to have their photograph taken to reproduce an ID card from the era, explains David Holdsworth, controller of English Regions.

'The cards were actually based on one that was used at the time to help people gain entry to security sites across the UK, sort of ID cards of the First World War,' he says.

More than 20,000 people had their picture taken. These photos, plus some held by the Imperial War Museum - including Beaney's, which was donated to the museum by his parents - are the ones used in Marshall's mosaic.

Holdsworth, who commissioned the artwork, says it taps into people's enthusiasm for the World War One at Home project, brought to life by English Regions, BBC Learning and the Imperial War Museum.

About 250,000 people turned up to events around the country and contributed to the many stories broadcast across the BBC over the course of the year.

'No individual listener or viewer would have seen or heard all those stories ... but this was really perhaps a way of marking the scale and ambition of the work we've done,' the controller adds.

Legacy
Mosaic of Private James Beaney in W1 The mosaic installed in the piazza

A vinyl duplicate of the mosaic will be displayed on the pavement outside Broadcasting House, later transferring to Salford Quays, where there will also be a projection of it on the Big Screen.

The Imperial War Museum in Salford will also include a projection as part of their events leading up to Remembrance Day.

Marshall - who also did a mosaic of the Queen for the jubilee - tells Ariel she is feeling 'invigorated, relieved but exhausted' upon completing her latest piece.

'I wanted an artwork that will continue to have a life and legacy beyond its first showing this week and an artwork everyone can access from across the world online and digitally from their homes.'

Explore how the commemorative artwork was made through a special iWonder guide

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