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Creative projects unveil importance of coastal heritage

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Published on 03 November 2021

Blue Wave, performed on Roker beach, emerged from the Sea AIR programme
Blue Wave, performed on Roker beach, emerged from the Sea AIR programme

The University of Sunderland is part of 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 COP26 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 Sunderlandand 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. 

About SeaScapes

 SeaScapes is possible because of the open collaboration and support from all the partners involved, led by the Heritage Coast Partnership, and these include: 

South Tyneside, Sunderland, Durham and Hartlepool Councils, National Trust, Northumbrian Water, Durham Wildlife Trust, North Eastern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, Natural England, Groundwork, Marine Management Organisation, the Environment Agency, East Durham Heritage Group, Living History North East, Heugh Battery and the University of Sunderland, Durham University and Newcastle University. 

Co/Lab Sunderland  
Launched in 2018, Co/Lab Sunderland aims to stimulate knowledge fusion between disciplines and practices by foregrounding our collective ability to ask questions, test assumptions and see our world afresh. In doing so, we help generate new knowledge that have real societal value and impact in the world.

At its heart, Co/Lab Sunderland is a creative catalyst designed to stimulate dynamic environments in which to produce cultural, economic and socially driven interdisciplinary outputs generated by - and in collaboration with - academic staff and students in the University of Sunderland. We do this through brokering arts-led interdisciplinary collaborations that foster new connections between diverse ecologies of knowledge, practice and innovation.

We facilitate supportive contexts that foreground creative experimentation, knowledge generation and collaborative production, enabling the exchange of insights, methods and experiences between artists and academics from across University of Sunderland, external partners, stakeholders and diverse communities.

We reach a broad range of academic, professional stakeholders and diverse communities through the delivery a rich programme of public facing talks, co-creation labs, collaborative commissions, interdisciplinary projects and published materials.

 Dr Suzy O’Hara

Dr Suzy O’Hara is a curator, researcher and educator based in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. She is the co-editor of “Art Hack Practice: Critical Intersections of Art, Innovation and the Maker Movement” (Routledge 2019). As Research Fellow at University of Sunderland she instigated the interdisciplinary, cross faculty commissioning programme CoLab Sunderland and is leading Seascapes CoLab at University of Sunderland. As a freelance curator, Suzy is Project Curator for the Human Cell Atlas public engagement project, exploring ways to improve the value and trust people place in pioneering scientific research by fostering equitable opportunities for collaboration between artists, scientists and diverse communities across the UK. 

 About The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Using money raised by the National Lottery, we Inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future. www.heritagefund.org.uk.

Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund 


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