Creative projects unveil importance of coastal heritage

As world leaders make their climate pledges during COP26, the University of Sunderland unveils it’s part in a project fostering deeper connections with the environmental, cultural and industrial coastal heritage of the region thanks to a multi-million-pound cash investment from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

SeaScapes is a four-year marine heritage project worth £5m, including investment from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and benefitting communities in South Tyneside, Sunderland, Durham and Hartlepool.

Just as the COP 26 focuses on climate commitments for the future, SeaScapes looks at the critical effort needed both above and below the sea to unite people and planet and protect what’s important across our communities.

Led by Durham County Council, the project consists of partners including the University of Sunderland, united in their mission to increase protection of our sea and coastline.

Of the 23 projects being delivered, the University is leading SeaScapes Co/Lab, a two year programme looking at how we can connect with our world and develop sustainable ways to protect and care for our marine environment through art and creativity, led by Dr Suzy O’Hara a digital art curator and researcher.

The programme kicked off with four multi-sensory projects developed through the first Sea AIR (Artists in Residence) programme that focuses on the sounds and natural marine heritage of the sea and coast.

Suzy says: “This programme is an open invitation for coastal communities across the North East to take up values of care, generosity and sharing, and find new multi-sensory ways of engaging with ancient wisdom and beauty of the marine ecology in exchange for its resurgence and all our future.”

She added: “This is also a fantastic opportunity for creative engagement between the University’s Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries (FACI), working with coastal communities and project partners.”

Sea AIR has brought together four partners from across the SeaScapes consortium, including National Trust, Durham Wildlife Trust, Tees Archaeology and academic expertise with Durham University’s geology faculty, to work in collaboration with creative, academic expertise from within University of Sunderland’s FACI (Sustainable Fashion, Music, Screen Performance and Radio) and multi-disciplinary artists from across the region. Each of the four Sea AIR collaborations are working with a local community based in either North Tyneside, Sunderland, Durham and Hartlepool throughout the autumn to explore the richness and diversity of our natural marine heritage through sound, dance, deep listening and performance.

The Sea AIR are:

  • The Bluescapes team (Artist: Constance Humphries, FACI: Naomi Austin and the National Trust) are delivering weekly dance workshops at Roker Life Centre, Roker Church with female  members of  Friends of the Drop In for Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Sunderland and Sangini, a Black and minority ethnic (BME) led, multicultural women’s arts organisation based in South Shields

Their final original dance performance entitled Blue Wave took place on Roker beach on 27 October 2021 at 2pm.

  • The Changing Coastline team(Artist: Shelly Knotts, FACI: Caroline Mitchell and Tees Archaeology) have launched Whitburn Resonances and are delivering workshops with local communities at the Barnes Institute, Whitburn. Together, they will map the sounds of Whitburn through time, embedding local stories, histories, archaeologies, and futures of Whitburn village and coastline.
  • A sharing event will present the final work on the 27 November 2021.
  • The Intertidal Interactive Team (Artist: Louise Mackenzie, FACI: Hayley Jenkins and Durham Wildlife Trust) will deliver Be the Sea t, a project that aims to create empathy with the coastal environment though sound art. The team will be delivering sound walks, acoustic ecology and collage workshops with Durham Wildlife Trust Beach Rangers (14 – 18 years) University of Sunderland students during October and the FACI Creative Industries week.
  • The Reading the Rocks Team (FACI, Adelle Hulsmeier and Seascapes Partner Prof Dave Roberts (Durham University) will be crowdsourcing stories of Blast Beach for a new short film.

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