The Sea Beneath

Image by Sarah Macbeth

The Sea Beneath: an unusual heritage programme that uses spirit and science to open our minds to the ground beneath our feet.

Watch the video of our Creative Caucus #1 Mapping event held on 21 January. This first of three Creative Caucuses opened out the creative process we are using to build The Sea Beneath. We discussed our ongoing work, with some people presenting on their ideas and their reactions to our themes for the project.

The Sea Beneath is an ambitious environmental art, science and heritage project that will map the hidden water courses – and other invisible, unseen and forgotten features – beneath the streets of Hastings. To do this, we are working with two groups of researchers to create differing views of the water and the world beneath our feet; one of them unorthodox, based on spirit and instinct, the other based on science and expert analysis. It is possible the two are entwined.

In our pilot on 13 December, we began with the unorthodox: we worked with a wonderful group of dowsers in an initial research and discovery stage, some of which was live in the America Ground, but COVID-safe. The pilot was followed by an orthodox scientific one-day event, Discovery Day, in March, which offered a fascinating and educational experience led by geographers, environmental scientists and educators. They explored the evidence of old coastlines, earlier harbours and the possible future inundation of our town as sea levels rise.

The combined and mapped results of our research have been passed on to commissioned artists and storytellers as starting points for stories about the marine flows under Hastings and how they affect our psyche. The work will go online on the MSL Smart Heritage map and on our social media channels soon. 

This led to an event, Semaphore, on at dusk on 17 May on Hastings’ seafront on. Semaphore re-visited and revived a performance piece by the respected photographer, Chris Wainwright, which we updated to send out key messages about the rising tide we know is coming our way. 

With The Sea Beneath we will also be opening out the creative process by embarking on the development of a panel of extraordinary advisers which we are calling a Creative Caucus. The group will consist of people with an active interest in our projects, who will meet and discuss our ongoing work with a view to planning and becoming more involved in future projects. We have worked with many creatives in the past – artists, writers, musicians, historians, film-makers and so on – and want to actively encourage a collaborative group, providing future opportunities for the creation of new work.

We plan to host a series of scheduled conversations around particular topics, inviting people to make contributions from their own (informed) perspective, or to simply listen in, ask questions and maybe follow up. It’s a way of making people part of the conversation. Progressively, some of these people might become ‘associates’, developing their own ideas and contributing to us more regularly.

The Sea Beneath town map

Landschop / Shoveled Land: a new map emerges from the sea beneath

A beautiful new map of Hastings has been created by Hastings artist, Sarah Macbeth, as part of The Sea Beneath project. She says: “It’s influenced by the writings of John Stilgoe who tells us how ‘landscape’ comes from the old Frisian word landschop, which once meant shoveled land – land thrown up against the sea. Here, on the margin of our coastline, is the meeting of land and sea, a ‘limicole zone contested by wilderness and human order’. How we humans try and separate the two but forever they will be connected, like all things in nature.”

The Sea Beneath has been funded by Arts Council England and Trinity Triangle Heritage Action Zone.

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