Flags will give boat an Olympic send-off

SPELLING IT OUT Semaphore signal by Ab Seaman, Chris Redman. Inset, the boat Collective Spirit.  Picture: Allan Hutchings (122070-203)
SPELLING IT OUT Semaphore signal by Ab Seaman, Chris Redman. Inset, the boat Collective Spirit. Picture: Allan Hutchings (122070-203)
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FOR generations semaphore flags have been used by people as a way of communicating with each other on land and sea.

Now performers gathered together by The New Theatre Royal will carry on the tradition when they wave off a boat called Collective Spirit as she leaves Portsmouth at the end of an arts festival.

The Collective Spirit

The Collective Spirit

Standing on the open-air platforms of the Spinnaker Tower, four people will spell out the word ‘farewell’ to crew on board the boat by pointing square red and yellow flags in different directions.

Dom Hart, operations officer at the New Theatre Royal, said: ‘This is about Portsmouth coming together in the only way it knows – in a nautical way.

‘Semaphore is the traditional naval method of signalling – we thought about using Morse code but it’s a bit modern.

‘It matches the traditional build of the boat – it reflects the grassroots of Portsmouth.’

Collective Spirit was commissioned for the Olympics and is built out of hundreds of pieces of donated wood, including the Mary Rose and Jimi Hendrix’s guitar.

She will arrive at Gunwharf Quays on Saturday for the launch of Portsmouth Festivities, a celebration of art, music and literature. She will remain there until the festival finishes on July 1.

As part of the launch, a choir made up of hundreds of singers will sing songs around the theme of the Olympics when the boat arrives.

Gregg Whelan, artistic director of Lone Twin, which built the boat, said: ‘Semaphore was used to pass messages and stories from ship to ship. This is especially important for the boat, which is made of thousands of different stories. It will be the only time on the voyage that semaphore will be used.’

Director of naval recruiting, Captain Mike Davis-Marks, will help organise the event.

He said: ‘While modern navies use modern communications technologies, semaphore retains a glimpse into the past of this island nation with its rich maritime heritage. Not just the navy, but the nation itself.

‘Semaphore is a way of sending messages in sight of each other without electronic means.

‘Semaphore is not state of the art. We no longer teach it – if you can see another ship you’re too close to it.’


Each direction the flag is waved represents different letters of the alphabet.

Though the Royal Navy now uses modern methods, semaphore flags are still sometimes used as a form of communication between boats. Flags used on land are white and blue.

Star-studded line-up at Festivities

VISITORS will be treated to an action-packed line-up during Portsmouth Festivities.

Folk singers The Fisherman’s Friends, who hail from Port Isaac, Cornwall, will perform on board HMS Warrior on Monday, June 25. The event kicks off at 7pm.

Novelist Anthony Horowitz, who wrote children’s books The Power of Five and Alex Rider, will entertain crowds the next day at Portsmouth Grammar School from 11am. Two days later Lord Roy Hattersley will give people an insight into the life of former Liberal prime minister David Lloyd George at a talk being held at Royal Marines Museum from 7.30pm.

Call (023) 9282 4355 or go to portsmouthfestivities.co.uk