23 July 2024

Exhibition offers chance to experience sights, sounds and voices of ‘inspiring’ coastline

By Sam Hawcroft

A major multimedia exhibition that has opened in Kilnsea aims to shine a light on the sights, sounds and authentic voices of South Holderness like never before.

Living Coast, an installation of photography, fine art, spoken word, text, sound, music and video, has been created through a six-month collaboration between creative artists and environmental scientists from the University of Hull, and the communities of Easington, Kilnsea and Spurn.

It follows a performance on Easington beach last month involving final-year drama students at the university – and the story of its production will form part of the exhibition at the Barn at Westmere Farm in Kilnsea.

Organisers are urging local people to come along to what promises to be a uniquely immersive experience.

It is a project that has been at least a year in the planning, and has been put together by a team spanning three schools at the university – arts, humanities and environmental sciences – also working closely with the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Spurn Bird Observatory and local historians.

Dr Christian Billing, of the drama department of the University of Hull, has been researching South Holderness and has written a cycle of 10 poems that will form part of the exhibition.

Post-doctoral research assistant Ellen Jeffrey came on board in January alongside PhD student Toby Horkan to build on Christian’s research by carrying out a series of interviews with current and former residents of Easington, Kilnsea and Spurn, which formed the basis of the movement and spoken-word performance at Easington.

The exhibition has three themes – Landlines, Tidemarks and Skylights – and people will be able to put on headsets and hear people talking about different aspects of the landscape (they recorded a total of 17 hours of interviews, which will eventually form an online oral archive).

And, if that were not enough of a treat for the ears, Christian’s colleague Dr Mark Slater has made a series of broadcast-quality field recordings of the Spurn peninsula, including the sounds of birds and other animals, rain on gorse bushes, ships passing by, the sea washing, the wind over the marram grass – and he has used these as the basis of nine new compositions for strings and piano.

Christian added: “We have an ambisonic array of eight speakers in the galleries, and these field recordings, together with the piano and strings, will be moving around each space slowly but continuously.”

The visual element comprises photographs that will document everything from the gravel trade in the 19th century, rare migrating birds, Amy Johnson landing her aircraft near Spurn Lighthouse, stones on the beach, as well as overhead photos of Spurn.

The hope is that people visiting the show at Kilnsea may see their own area in a new light – and the arts can achieve this in way that science cannot, says Ellen.

“What arts does is it gives us that space to think about how to do things differently, and how to come together differently – how we might relate to place differently. I think these are essential, important things, especially when we look at things like climate change and environment going forward.

“Bringing together music, performance and literature creates a space where we can tackle those problems together, but in a different way to facts and figures, which could sometimes be a bit isolating. Saying it’s the fastest-eroding coastline, for instance – that tells us about speed, but that doesn’t tell us about the people.”

Living Coast is at The Barn at Westmere Farm, Kilnsea, until Monday, June 24. Please note the opening hours at The Barn are 10am to 4pm daily.