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 will lead to an event, Semaphore, which we hope to deliver on 17 May on Hastings’ seafront. Semaphore re-visits and revives a performance piece by the respected photographer, Chris Wainwright, which will be updated to send out key messages about the rising tide we know is coming our way. 

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

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