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Cathedral transformed to mark First World War centenary

Orkney’s St Magnus Cathedral is the backdrop for a memorial to islanders who died in the conflict.

Film: The 20-minute presentation will play until November 11.
Film: The 20-minute presentation will play until November 11. Orkney Islands Council

The walls of Orkney's St Magnus Cathedral provided a spectacular canvas for a film marking the island's experiences in the First World War.

Exploring the conflict through the eyes of Orkadians, The Great War: an Orkney Memorial Experience was projected onto the sandstone walls of the cathedral on Thursday evening.

The 20-minute film draws inspiration from the archipelago's wartime heritage, combining archive imagery with hand drawn animation.

It will run on a loop eight times a day from 5pm each evening until Remembrance Day on November 11.

At around 7.40pm each night it will come to a rest on the final image - a tree, made up of the names of Orcadians who died in the war, in a field of poppies.

Glasgow-based company Playdead was engaged to create the film, and pupils from Glaitness Primary and Kirkwall Grammar schools were involved in the creation of the work.

Kevin McCrae, creative director, said: "After speaking to local people and school children about what they'd like to see and seeing what we could draw on from archives as well, we thought it would be good to develop a series of sequences which looked at the war and its impacts in Orkney from a range of angles.

"Spectators will see snippets of what soldiers would have experienced, but also there's scenes which explore how farmers and school children would have been affected, as well as a look at what propaganda people here would have seen, and images from after the war of how the end of the conflict was celebrated and how it was commemorated."

Memorial: 578 people from Orkney died as a result of the fighting.
Memorial: 578 people from Orkney died as a result of the fighting. Orkney Islands Council

Mr McCrae said the projection was the biggest his company had worked on, and the first of its scale in Orkney.

He added: "It's such an iconic building in the heart of Kirkwall and we wanted to do justice to it - so we have done a lot of work to take into account the uneven surfaces and to choose a colour palette that would really work with the beautiful red stone."

The film was specially commissioned by the Kirkwall Townscape Heritage Initiative for the centenary of the First World War armistice.

Convener of Orkney Islands Council, Harvey Johnston, said: "There were 578 dead from Orkney as a result of World War One - a huge loss for a community of around 25,000 at the time.

"As we mark 100 years since the end of the First World War it's important to remember not just our loved ones who didn't come back and the holes they left, but also the lasting impact on those left behind.

"There was also a huge cost to those who did come back from battle - the physical and mental scars they bore and the impact of that on countless families in our community and further afield was tremendous.

"This film offers us all the opportunity to reflect on the sacrifice made by Orcadians during the war and the courage of those left behind to carry on both during the conflict and after it ended."

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