War of Words: Soldier Poets of the Somme – Broadcast Scrapbook

I wanted to write some stuff about this programme sooner, but the events previously documented in this blog (which all began on the afternoon of broadcast) meant it’s taken me some time to take stock and collect all the things that happened as a result of the show going out.

As I have mentioned before, “War of Words: The Soldier Poets of the Somme” was a 90 minute BBC Arts documentary, directed by Sebastian Barfield that sought to reconnect the history and the landscape of the notorious 1916 Battle of the Somme with the extraordinary poetry and literature that it inspired. At BDH we created content graphics to help illustrate the history and also animations (which I was involved with) to accompany the poetry. We had a great team on the job, and working on it was a moving and wonderful experience.

This post is partly a scrapbook for my purposes to collect some of the information, posts and reactions that went out on social media, in a Storify style, so I might be updating it as and when I come across more of them. Also be warned, this post is mostly embeds from Twitter, so if you are reading this on anything else that the actual webpage they might format weirdly.

You can see a clip from the show via the BBC here, this part concerns the removal of lice eggs from clothing and Isaac Rosenberg’s Louse Hunting.

There was a preview screening of the programme at the Watershed on the 5th November. Afterwards Peter Barton, Jean Moorcroft Wilson, Sebastian Barfield, Jeremy Banning and Richard Van Emden discussed the programme, the poets and how they shaped the way people remember the Great War. That discussion is available to hear on Soundcloud here:(direct link).

Sebastien Barfield wrote some words on the BBC blog about the show.

This is a link to a discussion of the programme on Military History Online, quite fascinating in itself.

“The Somme In Seven Poems” was a short that BDH produced which anthologised just the poetry animations themselves. That went onto the iPlayer a week before the broadcast, and got some lovely responses from people, especially on Remembrance Day.

Here is a trailer BDH produced for the short.

Obviously in the modern age, people can watch the show at anytime once it goes on the iPlayer so these tweets are not really in chronological order. I just went through the hashtags and search options retrospectively and grabbed some of the most interesting ones.

The whole programme has been taken down from the iPlayer now but I have heard bits are on YouTube somewhere, you’ll have to search for that yourself, if you feel so inclined.

BDH have produce a VR app that contains the animation for The Kiss one of the poems featured on the show. This works on Google Cardboard and is available on Google Play and iTunes.




West to East and Back Again, or How to Draw from the Window of a Train.

A week or so ago I travelled across England to pick up a car. So the away journey was by train and the return by car.

There’s a lot of enforced down time during a trip like that so I took a few photos made a few drawings, read a bit of Vonnegut, thought about stuff. Very enriching in all.

I liked the idea I could sample the sea on opposite coasts in one day. This was not possible on the way there as I was effectively on food and couldn’t get to Clevedon.

So my morning photo of the West that day was this one:

Morgan’s Hill

Caught the 11:05 to Paddington, with the express idea of drawing, a possibly trying to catch up on the 365 drawing thing I’ve been going. Not sure if you have tried drawing on a train, most people are too close for you to study without causing a uncomfortable situation and generally stuff is going passed so quickly outside you need a super fast photographic memory to get it in your brain before you can decide how to represent it on the page.

So I decided to go for the horizon, because that goes pass slower and if you miss a bit it doesn’t look too weird if you just join on to the contiuation.

I added the times and locations at points, also a few announcements from the guard to add some



70/365 Various horizon lines drawn from the window of the 11:30 to London Paddington. Going through Bath Spa, Chippenham, Swindon, Didcot Parkway. V-ball. Notebook: Ethel.

I got as far as Didcot Parkway on that then got the I’ll-miss-my-stop-fear, even theough the train was terminating. The connections were really tight as I got a super cheap ticket I had to make everyone.

Managed to take a picture of Yea Olde Saint Pancras as I got to Kings Cross.

Passing through the London at speed. Not even touching the sides. St. Pancras from the entrance to Kings Cross. #dontforgettolookup
View across Shaw’s Dike.

Then there I was in the East. It’s quite flat there. We picked up the car somewhere in the middle of the Fens, this is what it is like there.

Mostly sky.

I stayed over night at my folks place. There’s a lot of amazing old photos there. They should write a book.

Here is a picture of my Grandad at a Grasstrack meeting at Bourne in June 1949, less that 4 years after the end of the Second World War. Two Soldiers looking on. (Grandad’s on the left):

Picture of Grandad (on the left) with fellow rider at a grass track meet. Taken at Bourne, June 1949. Check out the two military looking fellas in the back there.

So the next day I set off as early as I could (which wasn’t that early), this time because I had wheels I could take a picture of the sea, here known as the Wash. It’s quite shallow there so the sea is often very flat compared to the ocean that crashes in on the West coast.

The Wash from near the Light House, Old Hunstanton.

Wanted to draw on the way back too. But you can’t draw when driving. That is bad. So I took breaks (7 hour drive altogether), and when I took a break I drew the backend of whatever I could see.

71/365 Back-ends of various vehicles drawn during mildly epic road trip (when stationary and when it was safe to do so, obv) from Hunstanton through Peterborough, A47, M6, M5 etc. 7 hours journey time in total. See images of both #east and #west seas (taken on same day) earlier in this feed. V-ball. Notebook: Ethel.

I got caught in a nasty jam on the M62 so didn’t get back home until late. But just in time to catch the end of the light in this picture of the opposite Sea.

West coast. Clevedon front.

10 Reasons Why Animators Should Make GIFs

1. They’re quick to do. 
Animation is traditionally a lifetime torturefest of pain, self-doubt and confusion. You can make a nice GIF from just a few frames and that’s the end of it.

2. They catch the eye.
There’s nothing like a moving image in a sea of search results to make people look twice. (We’re living in an attention economy, people).

3. You can provide a nice teaser to your Vimeo page.
Like worms for fish.

4. No-one will ask you to explain the sub-text.
Which is especially good if it is not in your best interest to tell people what exactly that is.

5. People rarely click and watch a video on Tumblr.
With a GIF, TOO LATE!! They already watched it.

6. It’s down with the kids.
Kids love GIFs, GIFs love kids.

7. You can do self portraits and no-one has to look at your ugly face.
I’ve been participating in the Guest Directed Self Portrait project initiated by Molly Peck. I think I am only recognisable in 1 of my 7 submissions so far made.

8. You can try stuff out and get quick feedback.
Nothing says something works by a tsunami of reblogs.

9. You learn the virtue of brevity.
There’s nothing worse than a time waster.

10. You can recycle old work.
Remember that crappy piece of work you did years ago that you’re too ashamed to show anyone? GIF the good bit, bin the rest.