About a year ago or so, it was confirmed that Harry Styles – the curly haired singer from One Direction – would have a part in the next Christopher Nolan’s film: an epic recreation of the Dunkirk evacuation that changed the course of history.
A 1D fan saw the opportunity to do her part to save a real actor from the historical events that occurred in Dunkirk: she raised £5000 to restore Skylark IX, a little ship that saved 600 soldiers back in 1940.
It seems to me that it was important to chat to her and to understand how she did it, why she did it and what sort of reception she received throughout her own saving mission.
Sasha is 23 and she lives just outside of Manchester in the UK. She’s been a One Direction fan for about 3 years.
When and how did she start to get interested in the Operation Dynamo? “Atonement has been one of my favourite movies since it was released, however I never really took much notice to the actual context of the war scenes. It’s a complete coincidence that I’m now so interested in Dunkirk via the movie being released next year.”
She started up a fan account in April last year to follow the movie’s progress. Since then, she’s done a lot of research into Operation Dynamo. “Once you start learning bits and pieces of what happened it’s quite addictive to just dive right in and want to know everything.” She now has almost 41 thousand followers and has become quite a reference when it comes to Dunkirk!
She worked with the Skylark Trust to raise money to restore and save Skylark IX. How did she found out about that little ship?
“I discovered the Skylark Trust’s Twitter account when I was researching the Dunkirk little
ships that were going to be involved in the filming in France back in June. I got into contact
with them one night and asked what exactly they needed help with. I knew that the 1D fandom had supported a lot of charities in the past and it just seemed like the perfect opportunity to work with them. So very fitting!”
Sasha’s goal was to help this little charity gain a lot of exposure and to educate Harry’s fans on the real history of Dunkirk.
But why does she think it was so very important to save a little ship? “I think it’s so important to save Skylark IX because she represents an important part of our history. She brought 600 men home from Dunkirk and that’s a lot of children and grandchildren who are probably still here today.”
Skylark IX on her way to recovery.
It is well known that the One Direction fans are passionate: when they get involved in a project, they break the barriers of time zones, of languages, of differences and come as a whole.
What has been the reception to Sasha’s project then? “It has been amazing! I’ve had some really lovely comments from fans from all over the world. Skylark has had donations from countries as far as New Zealand, India, Ecuador, the US, Australia, Italy, France, Germany… all over the place! All the love for this little Scottish ship.”
Maartje, a 1D fan from The Netherlands, also helped Sasha: “She has also been a huge part of this campaign. She has provided a lot of the promotional material and is running the @SaveSkylark account for me while I’m promoting the work on my own account!”
Harry’s mother, Anne, got involved in the project too: she retweeted Sasha’s appeals for funding many times and she was the jury of an art competition organised by the Skylark Trust. Sasha feels really grateful of her involvement and sense that Anne might have fallen for the little ship just as much as her.
Harry’s mum, Anne, made the final donation to save Skylark IX.
Now that Skylark IX’s fate is looking bright – the ship will be restored and is meant to join the Dunkirk 80th anniversary commemorations in 2020 – what are Sasha’s plans? Will she try to save more little ships? “Skylark is one of the rarer sort because she is owned by a charitable trust rather than a private owner. I think I will continue to support Skylark but it would be great to support some other WW2 based charities over the next year if we can find the time to organise that!”
What Sasha and the 1D fans have achieved is fantastic!
I have read so many articles saying that the One Direction fans didn’t know anything about what happened in Dunkirk or what Nolan’s film was about.
Knowing about Sasha and her project, I thought it was rude to assume the 1D fans weren’t remotely interested in the historical events of Dunkirk. Harry Styles has, through his work, gathered his fans and inspired them to get involved, to make a change and to be ever so kind.