Deepenings // About the project
On the Essex coast there are places that still feel wild, places that remember when the water was lower and remember when it was higher. Here the elements sing and squabble. Doggerland feels close. Ancient spirits tell of the homes lost to the water, the hand that built them and the giant creatures that once sailed up there in the water above where our heads are now.
We invite you to join us on an adventure that aims to illustrate poetic versions of the deep past and imagine prophetic versions of possible things to come.
Three female artists collaborate to read and retell the landscape, developing an AR and online experience that can bring magic outdoors to Cudmore grove…or transport the special landscape back home to you.
Ultimately we will develop an “Anticipatory Folklore” together with the local community. Creating songs, stories, characters and rituals that will record and celebrate this place, so close to the edge of disappearance.
We’ll imagine how the very real effects of climate change will affect it and take creative actions, including building a new monument, that can hold on to something of the site as the water rises and the storms come howling more loudly and more often. We will think about what has already disappeared and what we stand to lose here.
The Outcomes of the project will include:
An enhanced reality walking trail around Cudmore Grove, guided by an interactive zine. The walk will have 12 stops, each of which will have a story attached to it. There will also be interactive elements and all of the narratives will be co-written with participants.
A new monument for the Island consisting of a Cairn/Barrow and a labyrinth, constructed from local earth, wild flowers and oyster shells. Using materials designed to echo the existing burial mound/barrow on the island we will construct a ritual site, in and around which our storytelling can take place.
By using local and natural materials we aim to make these monuments (and also our markers for the trail) habitat building rather than disrupting the site too much. A home for the native flora, birds and minibeasts that are so special and abundant in this site.
A new folklore. To celebrate and take ownership of the new monumental structures new storytelling will be pulled together. The new folktales, songs and rituals we have built over the course of the project, together with local participants, will be performed, shared and celebrated gently on May 1. At Midsummer a bigger spectacle will be put together, woven with unplugged live folk music and theatrical performances that remain sensitive to the resident wildlife! We will also invite other folk related performers and creatives from across the local area (and in special cases from further afield) to come and get involved.
The Deepenings Project is a collaboration between artists Gemma Garwood, Bethan Briggs-Miller, Elinor Rowlands and the Community on Mersea Island.
Why are we doing this?
I have been visiting Mersea since I was small and it has always held so much comfort, wisdom and magic for me. The place is under my skin.
It is a site of play and adventure. A place I have gone whilst falling in and out of love. A place I have rested and one where I have worked.
It has filled my head with wonderful stories and my belly with good food.
I go to feel quiet. I go to seek inspiration. To take me time. To feel connected to something outside of myself. To dream...
I have long known that I wanted to contribute to this place that has offered me so much. To give back something deservedly spectacular. Working in the park and getting to know it in a different way for the past 6 months or more has only deepened this desire.
This place is magic... And I am not the only one who thinks so. Twitchers, toddlers, dogs and their human companions. Other artists dreaming other visions of the place, friends having a stroll and a natter, flustered folks rushing for the foot ferry but periodically pausing to take in the view. It holds comfort and wisdom for them too.
And in the near future it will have changed dramatically. Predicted sea level rises are expected to wipe out 30-60% of Mersea Island's land mass by 2050...In less than 30 years the sea will wash over the Blockhouse, take under the pill box skeletons on the beach. She will have eaten more of the cliffs and begun to creep up towards the bird hide...
My home in Colchester will be closer to the water than it has ever been before.
And while most of the dwellings on the island will be safe enough the whole landscape will look different. How will the Strood cope? Will it need to be altered to carry folk over or will they have to turn to boats just like in the old times.
How will it feel to have more water between Mersea and the mainland... To be that little bit further away than it felt before...
Realistically this loss of land is happening all around the coastline of Britain. The money is not there to build or maintain the defences required to keep things just as they are, and this would be an increasingly futile effort over time anyway. The world has not reacted quickly or assertively enough on climate change to stop, or even to diminish, these sea level rises.
This project understands that change is something to be accepted, anticipated and possibly even celebrated in these coastal environments. So we propose to imagine what the palliative care for this particular place might involve. How might we capture and preserve it as we love it in this moment.
Working with the local community together with local artists we are working to collect and contrive an anticipatory folklore. To gather up the magic of the place in stories and songs that can be passed down long after the water has claimed the soil. To enjoy it for as long as we can and record it for that time in the future when we can not.
So please, come along and join us...
And together, let's go down to the Deepenings.