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Floating theatre to bring war commemoration to the Clyde

They were used at Gallipoli and in the architecture of the First World War trenches of the Western Front in which millions of soldiers lost their lives.

DRAMATIC: No Man's Land: Niemandsland will involve two sides of a domed auditorium connecting three times an hour for poetry and story performances.
DRAMATIC: No Man's Land: Niemandsland will involve two sides of a domed auditorium connecting three times an hour for poetry and story performances.

The pontoons that were central to both conflicts have provided the inspiration for a £500,000 art installation that will appear on the Clyde in Glasgow next year.

Glasgow, No Man's Land: Niemandsland, which has been billed as the city's biggest and most ambitious arts project, will move across the river linking a wooden whispering auditorium.

It will be the highlight of next July's Merchant City Festival and the latest step in four years of commemoration of the centenary of the First World War.

The creation of five designers, including Scottish artist Graham Eatough, the project is a collaboration between Glasgow Life, Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority and a German research project, Urbane Kuenste Ruhr.

It cements the links between Scotland and Australia after the Commonwealth Games were handed over to the Gold Coast for 2018.

More than 30,000 people are expected to visit the installation when it makes its European debut at Custom House Quay.

About three times an hour the two sides of the dome will connect to form a unique auditorium where poetry and stories from the First World War can be heard.

"It's very exciting, hugely ­ambitious," said Lorenzo Mele, executive producer of the festival. "We're looking to use the river in a way we've never done before," .

The idea was first mooted last year when he met Michael Cohen, the creative producer at Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, to talk about the Games.

"He produces work on the water in Sydney and was looking for European partners. I was keen to do something on the Clyde: there's a real desire now to get more people to engage with the river that is so iconic in the city's history and image but actually we've turned our back on since industrialisation," said Mr Mele.

Artists from Australia, Scotland and Germany had a brief to respond to the 1914-18 conflict in an understanding manner.

"We wanted something that was reflective, subtle and contemplative. One of the images that was inspiring to the artists was the pontoons that were created, particularly in Gallipoli and the landing campaigns, and strung across boats," said Mr Mele.

"And because we wanted to have the experience of the public actually being on the water, which is quite exciting, those two things started to come together.

"We also wanted somewhere you would sit and reflect and have a moment. We wanted it to be a contemplative experience, it couldn't be a celebration of any kind, it couldn't be big and bombastic and loud, it needed to be quiet and reflective.

"That's where the idea of these two domes came from that would travel across the water and meet."

The project will also be seen in Sydney and the Ruhr area of Germany. UK funding comes from Creative Scotland, Glasgow Life and Glasgow City Marketing Bureau.

Councillor Gordon Matheson, leader of Glasgow City Council, said the installation showed the city's ambitions were continuing long after the Games had ended.

He added: "We wanted to show that Glasgow is not just a city renowned for world-class sporting events, but one that can more than match that on a cultural front.

"This is wonderful news, it is a breathtaking project which is certain to stop people in their tracks and encourage them to reflect on such a momentous anniversary."

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