- Posted on April 5th, 2022
Beach Of Dreams – a 500 mile environmental journey
Beach of Dreams
Beach of Dreams was an epic 500-mile journey to discover the hidden gems of the East Coast of England, inviting collaboration from communities, environmental scientists and artists along the way in Suffolk, Essex, Southend, and Thurrock. Kinetika’s Artistic Director, Ali Pretty, and Guardian journalist Kevin Rushby walked the entire route joined by filmmakers, artists, writers, scientists, and local residents. Together, guided by strong environmental themes and the challenges of our current time, they have considered the question “How can we creatively reimagine our future?”
500 participants were invited to sign up to a mile and submit images and writing about their attachment to it and their hopes for the future, these were transformed into 500 naturally dyed hand-woven silk pennants by a team of artists in the Kinetika Studios in April 2021.
The content is available mile by mile on this Story Map
The change in our practice for the development and delivery of this project took place between February and August 2021.
Engagement with participants was online in the lead up to the live event, we launched a Call Out in March. Since the lockdown in March 2020, Kinetika has adapted our engagement activity to online delivery. We have produced downloadable online resource packs – such as the one for Beach of Dreams. This included a set of clear instructions as well as a bibliography and context for the project, it was accompanied by weekly zoom drop-in sessions for participants (that were based over a 500mile area) where people connected and felt part of a greater project during lockdown. It meant when we finally met in person and gave them their flag it was extremely poignant.
The online engagement has proved very successful, and we are continuing to develop it. More people can engage and ironically maybe even in a deeper way, as they can participate in their own space and in their own time. We can slow down the engagement running it over a longer period. People connect across a wider geography and with diverse groups, meaning we get more perceptions reflected and higher quality work. We do not have to travel as much. Where face to face can happen and is necessary, we work with local artists on the ground. This results in stronger and more sustainable relationships.
Up until this project Kinetika has used Procion MX Cold water dyes for silk painting, this was our first experiment into using natural dyes at scale. Use of natural dyes – For some time we have wanted to experiment with this, to work out whether we can move away from using chemical dyes, as Beach of Dreams was focussed on the environment, this felt like the right moment to do this.
We teamed up with Rob Jones to teach and guide us through the process. We intend to continue our experimentation with natural dyes. As we scale up the project, we plan to collaborate with natural dye growers/artists who will grow their own dye plants and then each section of flags will reflect the colours of its particular landscape.
We worked with Birkbeck University and Rosa Productions to generate the story map to host all the content (Esri Mapping tool). Over several years we have been experimenting with different ways of sharing our stories online, and it was an ambition to create a story map, pinned to the map of the walk.
Rosa Productions received a small G4A to enable this part of the project to happen. I was inspired by Out of Eden, a 7 year walk around the world by Paul Salopek who has been developing different ways of sharing content working with National Geographic. We have the licence for the story map for 5 years and it spans across the UK, so it is a tool we intend to use further and populate the map of the entire UK and Ireland coastline.
Adopting the model further afield
“Beach of Dreams is conceived as a national project that will unfold over the next three years along the entire UK and Ireland coastline in 2024, Kinetika is now working in partnership with Creative Lives to achieve this.”
Beach of Dreams scaled up our walking, talking and making model and achieved what I originally intended since my first walking project in 2013 – Walking Wiltshire’s White Horses, developing an online conversation/event in parallel with the live walk, with the increased focus on digital. The story map, as well as use of social media and daily blogs from Kevin Rushby allowed us to keep our audience captivated.
The walk lasted for 35 days but most participants joined us for one day, so they were keen to follow the unfolding narrative. The model, now tested, is highly replicable, and we have recently entered into a partnership with Creative Lives to scale it up across UK and Ireland in 2024, as a call out for Climate action, resulting in hyper local activity and a national network of active hubs.
Who else was involved / who supported the change?
- Mark Massey, our graphic designer, who has developed all of our resource packs since March 2020. Edwina Rigby who manages all the web content uploads and call out.
- Rob Jones, an expert in natural dyes.
- Rosemary Richards, producer, Rosa productions and her team, in generating and sharing content, along with support from Birkbeck University
- Kevin Rushby, writer of daily blog and 4 articles for the Guardian.
Image credit: from Lowestoft beach on the first walk day by Mike Johnston