Beth Derbyshire: Message

'Message' signaller on board HMS President'Message' signaller on board HMS President ©National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London 

This exhibition is no longer on display.

The National Maritime Museum (NMM) commissioned British artist Beth Derbyshire to produce 'Message' – a performance and exhibition – as part of the Museum's New Visions contemporary art programme.

The performance

The performance was a semaphore message signalled along the Thames. Twenty navy veterans signalled the message along the Thames, starting at the Royal Observatory and ending at Horse Guards Parade.

The signallers were located at key landmarks, including Cutty Sark, HMS Belfast and the roof of Admiralty Arch.

The message

War turns us to stone, in remembrance we shine and rise to new days.

Map showing the 'Message' signal locationsMap showing the 'Message' signal locations The performance took place on Remembrance Sunday, 13 November 2005; the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.

The message was decrypted at Whitehall and laid on a wreath at the Cenotaph by NMM Director Rear-Admiral Roy Clare.

The performance served as a reminder that the actions of those living and past must not be forgotten.

'Message' signaller on Nelson's Dock'Message' signaller on Nelson's Dock ©National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London In an age where communication is reliant on technology, 'Message' brings human interaction to the fore, creating a human line of communication across the city. The message carried is however not an advocacy of the 'glorious dead', but a living memorial uniting older and younger generations in the hope of a brighter future.
Beth Derbyshire

The exhibition

Careless talk costs lives by Beth DerbyshireCareless talk costs lives, by Beth Derbyshire, Message, New Visions 2005 To accompany the performance, Beth Derbyshire produced a series of artworks that combined the flora and fauna patterns associated with remembrance and medal designs for an exhibtion in the Queen's House.

Embedded within the images are messages taken from Second World War propaganda posters, including the 'Careless Talk Costs Lives' campaign.

You never know who is listening by Beth DerbyshireYou never know who is listening, by Beth Derbyshire, Message, New Visions 2005 Derbyshire undertook extensive research at the NMM and Imperial War Museum about messages issued to soldiers and sailors during combat.

The exhibition also featured a video of interviews with the veterans and footage of the Message performance.


Beth Derbyshire and the National Maritime Museum would like to thank the Royal Naval Association of Communicators and the Royal Naval Communication Chiefs' Association for their participation in 'Message'.

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