Art and Coastal Change Project Evaluation Report

Aldeburgh

The Culture of the Countryside team were asked to contribute to a discussion and performance evening focusing on Art and coastal change, held at the Southwold Picture Palace on Thursday February 3rd 2011. An evening of performances and presentations on the theme of the coast and how people are inspired by it’s landscape, included a description of the work the project had been doing at Corton School, near Lowestoft. Bee Farrell talked about the collaborative work the Sainsbury Centre had been doing with Halcrow, Waveney Pathfinder and the school. The focus had been one of exploring, discussing and thinking creatively about life living near water now and in the future, locally and globally. Other performers and speakers included The Red Rose Chain Theatre company, Halesworth Community Choir, Canute film project, artist Fran Crowe, poet Dean Parkin, Bill Parker (Suffolk Coast Futures), Cathy Smith (SCH ANOB),Prof. Mike Cowling (Crown Estate) and Dr. Robin McInnes

 

By Olivia Shaw on the behalf of the partnership between Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB and Suffolk Coast Futures (Bill Parker, Nicky Corbett and Cathy Smith).

The main aim of the project was to promote the Dr Robin McInnes OBE report ‘Art as a tool in support of the understanding Coastal Change in East Anglia’ which was commissioned by The Crown Estate.  

A programme of events was held in spring 2011, designed to engage the people of the Suffolk coast on the subject of art and coastal change, and was fully funded by The Crown Estate.   A local partnership was created to develop the project and undertake the events.

 

Highlights 

  • They were successful events throughout, with good attendance numbers – over 300 attendees across the three days, plus visitors to the art exhibition and those taking part in the workshops
  • Excellent reaction and positive feedback from the audiences
  • Good venues with an excellent spread of locations along the Suffolk coast
  • Improved engagement with previously untapped audiences
  • Good working relationships between Suffolk coast organisations and with The Crown Estate

 

Outline of events

A series of three linked events in Ipswich, Southwold and Aldeburgh, held on 2nd – 4th February 2011, an art exhibition and follow up art workshops in March-April.  

All these events set out to explore how art can interpret, inspire and imagine coastal change in Suffolk.  

 

EVENTS

2nd February 2011
UCS Waterfront Building Ipswich, The Robin McInnes Lecture
‘Art as a tool in support of the understanding of coastal change in Suffolk’

The inaugural lecture by Dr Robin McInnes on his report, followed by a Suffolk based contemporary artist’s interpretation of landscape.

  • Speakers; Dr Robin McInnes and Kate Giles
  • Introductions by;  David Baldry, course leader University Campus Suffolk, and Neil Jacobson of The Crown Estate 
  • Closing comments by: Tony Osmanski, Strategic Director, Suffolk Coastal District Council

 

3rd February 2011
Southwold Picture Palace, Our love of the seaside expressed through poetry, drama and music
‘We do like to be beside the seaside’

An evening of performances and presentations on the theme of the coast and how people are inspired by its landscape.

  • Performers; Red Rose Chain Theatre Company, Halesworth Community Choir, UEA Sainsbury Centre “Culture of the Countryside” with Bee Farrell, Canute Project film, Fran Crowe (Artist), Dean Parkin (Poet)
  • Introduction and Speakers; Bill Parker (Suffolk Coast Futures), Cathy Smith (SCH AONB), Mike Cowling (The Crown Estate), Dr Robin McInnes

 

4th February 2011
Aldeburgh Cinema, Coastal Question Time
‘What role does art have in shaping the future of the Suffolk coast?’ 

A panel debate led by figures from Suffolk coast organisations. 

  • Speakers; Dr Robin McInnes, Karen Thomas (Environment Agency), Laurence Edwards (Artist)
  • Debate Panel; Karen Thomas, Laurence Edwards, Mike Cowling, Nick Collinson (SCH AONB), Zoe Svendsen (Metis Arts), Dr Robin McInnes. Hosted by Tim O’Riordan (UEA). 
  • Landingstage.net, an online forum for artists to share their ideas and promote work inspired by landscape, was launched by Duncan Kent (Alde and Ore Art Futures).

 

Friday 4th to Sunday 6th February 2011
Art exhibition on “Imagining Change” held at Aldeburgh Cinema Galley 

Featuring work by Kate Giles, Simon Read, Laurence Edwards, Tony Pick and Fran Crowe.

 

March and April 2011
Public Art workshops

Six workshops, for the public to further explore the coast through art, film and poetry. 

  • ‘Tidelines- a Creative Walk’- a walk on Orford Ness collecting plastic debris to inspire poetry and artwork, March 6th and April 3rd. 
  • ‘Landscape Painting Workshops’- a morning out in a coastal landscape, drawing and an afternoon of studio time painting.  March 13th 2011 Bawdsey, March 27th Aldeburgh, April 10th Dunwich.
  • ‘Film Making Workshop’- a workshop to learn film making techniques and shoot scenes out on the coast, 20th March. 

 

FEEDBACK 

Positive comments overall from the organisers were focused on the high attendance, the overwhelming positive reactions from people and the smooth running with only minor technical glitches.  What was especially pleasing was the level of innovation, resulting in lot of debate being stimulated and new connections made. 

  • Dr McInnes tailoring of his presentation to each event was particularly praised, along with his delivery on each occasion.  
  • The design and quality of the publications made for the events was excellent; of particular note was the copy of the full report made available to all attendees, alongside the leaflet and postcard series.  

Mike Cowling, Chief Scientist at The Crown Estate, commented on a “very successful venture and the comments I have received are very favourable.  Your idea of holding three different but complementary events was excellent and clearly the publicity worked well”.

Fran Crowe, as one of the performers and who attended all three events, commented on how she liked the “way The Crown Estate funding of the Coastal Change research was used as a springboard to cover so many other related issues”.  Having a series of linked events reinforced the key messages, that the only thing that remains constant about the coast is change itself and the presence of a human response through art.

 

Feedback from audience

Feedback forms were distributed at each event for attendees to fill in and return. 41 forms were received from the Ipswich event, 12 from Southwold and 17 from Aldeburgh.  People who attended all three events tended to only to return one form.  

We estimate that about third to half the people attended more than one event.

At Southwold feedback was organised in a slightly different way, as interactive and visual. This is included in the feedback document available.

A full document detailing feedback is available, whilst the most significant responses are indicated below.

 

Comments

Below is a selection of comments given by those whose attended events, which demonstrate the success of the series and the depth of understanding they created. 

“I am an artist - this event made me realise the connection between the changing coastline and choosing a good composition portraying the subject.  This Coastal Question Time will be in my mind when next choosing a scene” (after Aldeburgh event).

“An excellent, informative and though provoking event.  It successfully brought together people from a wide range of backgrounds, and was not side tracked into discussion of controversial issues!” (after Aldeburgh event).

“I agree that this could be a great way of properly engaging school students in history, geography, geology, art and more, all at once, in practical projects whose outcome could also make a contribution to the ongoing "coastal change" survey” (after Ipswich event). 

The possibility of expanding the subject range was mentioned in feedback forms; possibly to include seaside postcards and seaside family photographs. 

 

Feedback

When asked ‘How much did you enjoy the event?’ 92.5% of those who attended the Ipswich event, and 93.99% who attended the Aldeburgh event gave a positive response.

When asked ‘Has this event inspired you to find out more about the coast?’ 68.29% of respondents in Ipswich indicated that it had. In Aldeburgh this figure was 88.11%.

In response to the question ‘From this event how much did you learn about how art helps us interpret and understand coastal change?’ 77.95% of respondents in Ipswich suggested that they had learnt something. 88.22% of respondents in Aldeburgh gave the same response. 

 

Feedback from performers

Fran Crowe, who attended all three events, commented how they really “put coastal issues and the inevitability of change on the agenda.  They also really fostered the idea that art can have a helpful role in facilitating and imagining our future here on the coast”.  Fran indicated that Southwold was the highlight of the three events, the panel at Aldeburgh was well chosen, although the pace of debate could have been faster, and the presence of a contemporary artist was a good counterpoint to the McInnes lecture. 

David Newborn, on behalf of Red Rose Community Theatre Company who performed at the Southwold event, gave some detailed feedback.  Overall the company found the event to be a good, varied and unusual evening! They found that the experience of producing the play was really evocative to those involved; it made many consider the sea as not just something beautiful, but as something which could do damage, and how they might respond to a flood event.  The presentation [by Fran Crowe] about re-using waste in the sea had the biggest impact of the evening, and the company thought Robin and the poet [Dean Parkin] to be less relevant.  The company found the venue to be a bit unfriendly, with staff creating a “snobby” atmosphere. They didn’t like the idea that they might not be able to sit and watch it because there was a concern that the limited space in the cinema meant there weren’t enough seats (but this did not happen in the end). 

 

Feedback from organisers

 These sorts of events have a real benefit for organisers and local communities, and it was a very good opportunity for two key coastal organisations (SCH AONB and Suffolk Coast Futures) to work together.  

  • Whilst each event was designed to ‘stand alone’ a full appreciation of the significance that art and artists can play in the understanding of coastal change and the future of the coast was intended to develop over the three events 
  • On reflection a more structured and consistent explanation of the overall context for these events would have been helpful.  
  • A wider date range could increase the depth of discussion
  • The report concentrated on fine art, and some comment was heard to suggest a further report could be done to include earlier art works and photography 
  • There were some concerns that marketing and publicity was not as extensive as possible, for example the exhibition wasn’t sufficiently promoted, and the events weren’t listed on the SCDC website. There was no press coverage in the East Anglian Daily Times, except as listings and an advert.  
  • There were ticketing issues, mainly revolving around confusions as to where tickets should be purchased from.  Note – to give an idea of how many people were expected at each of the free events, people were asked to request tickets in advance.  Holding free-but-ticketed events may have resulted in a higher number of “no shows”, particularly at Southwold, where the venue had a limited capacity.
  • The venues and locations worked well, but some venues were inflexible and it is possible that alternative venues may have been cheaper and not required the additional expense of a PA system.

 

Ipswich comments

  • The Waterfront Building was a good central location
  • Approx 120 plus people attended
  • The cross section of those in attendance was excellent, including Councillors and students from the University, as well as representatives from artists and local community groups
  • An excellent working relationship with UCS was begun that can be taken forward in the future.  Note – they have a Maritime Nation including Suffolk module as part of their History course
  • CSV Media videoed the lecture, both for the record and as an educational tool that can be made available to the public or students at the university at a later date.
  • The closing comments were thought to be too general and weren’t focused enough on the event itself. 
  • The lack of an introduction to Kate Giles meant there was no context given for her presentation.  She would have benefited from rehearsal time as she is unused to presenting in that sort of environment, and as a result her message did not come across as succinctly as it could have. 
  • There was some feedback about the temperature of the room, but this was beyond the partnership’s control.    

 

Southwold comments

  • A positive atmosphere and fun was had by everyone on the night
  • Approx 50 people attended (venue was limited to 60)
  • A good mix of performers, including local theatre company Red Rose Chain and the Halesworth Community Choir, along with audience interaction provided a new and stimulating way of considering the issues.
  • Although the size of the venue was found charming by the audience, some of the organisers and performers thought it challenging to work in a small space.   
  • The venue was inflexible to work with and keen to meet their own agenda – of showcasing a charming old-fashioned cinema experience – and wasn’t focused enough on the objectives of the event.  This also meant no rehearsal was possible, and there were some sound and visual hitches on the night. 

 

Aldeburgh comments

  • A lot of pertinent questions were received from the audience and good answers given by the panel
  • Approx 120 plus people attended
  • The panel mix was broad and was well hosted by Tim O’Riordan
  • The introductory film as people were arriving was appropriate.  
  • The reception after the discussion was ‘buzzing’, with conversations between new contacts and networks being formed. 
  • Having the art exhibition upstairs on the night was useful, as the content supported the evening and provided more space for the reception.  
  • There should have been a slide projected behind the panel for the debate rather than a blank screen, as it was difficult to create a good photograph of the debate.  
  • Sound was a slight problem for some of the speakers.  
  • The Coastal Question Time had good audience interaction throughout, although cross examination between the panel was more limited. A contributing factor to this could be put down to lack of rehearsal, as Tim didn’t know the other delegates.  
  • The reception went so well it would have nice to have extended it beyond ten o clock, but the venue was unable to offer this.
  • The venue was considered quite expensive for what they offered, and there was confusion about who was responsible for different aspects of organisation, such as tickets and PA. 

 

Exhibition comments

  • A good addition to the event series – a showcase of some Suffolk based artists who use coastal landscape for inspiration, although it had poor attendance (numbers approx 50 excluding Friday event)
  • The co-ordination of the exhibition was left rather late, and taking someone on at the last minute had an impact on how much publicity could be achieved.  
  • More introduction information given within the exhibition would have been beneficial, particularly for Simon Read’s imagining of the future pieces, and despite Tony Pick being a local photographer, he hadn’t imagined coastal change in his work; another artist could have been more suitable.

 

Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB

SCH AONB was keen to use the evidence from the events as part of development of a funding application towards a £1m Heritage Lottery Fund Landscape Partnership Scheme about community understanding of coastal change.  The AONB specifically asked the following questions, and used the feedback in the application. 

When asked, ‘Do you think people would care more about their coast if they were better informed about its processes and heritage?’, 80.48% of attendees at Ipswich voted ‘Yes’,  whilst in Aldeburgh this figure was 82.23%.

When asked, ‘Do you think people would like to hear more about the changing Suffolk coast?’ in Ipswich 73.17% and in Aldeburgh 89.47% voted ‘Yes’.

 

Conclusion

There is clearly an ‘appetite’ with the Suffolk public for events to learn about and engage in coastal issues. Therefore other opportunities should be actively sought to work to collaborate further with organisations such as The Crown Estate to bring new and different perspectives on coastal issues and inform the wider debate.  

These events were a positive example of partnership working, and it was good to work with The Crown Estate.

OS 16-3-11