High levels

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On Monday 11th of December, we went to Langport for a more in depth session with some of the people involved in the project; getting into the details of different possible options and our different wants and expectations, in order to develop a solid proposal for the next phase of Some:when. It was really inspiring to establish that momentum for the project is still there, Some:when is still alive and once we have figured out how to raise some funding, we can get stuck in.

It was a surprise to find the levels of the river Parrett so high – no serious flooding taking place, though, just a beautiful watery Somerset landscape.

 

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Graph source: https://flood-warning-information.service.gov.uk/station/3397?direction=u

 

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A restless interlude

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Some may have been wondering how the Some:when flatner has been doing over this long and changeable summer. While long-term plans for a river trip have been simmering slowly on a back burner (and there are some exciting developments in that area), the boat itself hasn’t been content to wait in silence. After a long stay  at the exhibition Imagined Landscapes at the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol, the flatner travelled back to Langport for a while, where its thirsty timbers were greeted with their first taste of rain for a very long time.

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From there, the flatner pressed on south to participate in the exhibition Weather Station II – coordinated by OSR projects as part of Portland’s prestigious B-side Festival. Weather Station is an “artist-led response to flooding,  extreme weather and the changing relationship we have with landscape and the natural world” – involving the cumulative contributions of a selection of artists working across South West England.

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Ideas for staging the hoped-for tidal journey on the Parrett are still afoot – and we are finding new ways to embed it within the wider locally-led project to re-connect Langport with the River Parrett. The logistical challenges of a tidal journey on this river were greater than we ever imagined – but we are confident that everything will eventually come together!

In the meantime, watch out also the Duchess of Cocklemoor – another inspiring boat-centred project to re-enliven the Parrett as a space of culture, leisure and transport…

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Carribbean Fishermen’s Tale

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Having travelled the Caribbean Coast for a while I have a number of stories to tell, however, there is one that comes to mind and makes me think of the traditional Flatner over and over again….

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Taganga is a little village nearby Santa Marta in the Caribbean coast of Colombia. It is a tiny place where tourists come to enjoy crystal clear sea water, unique sunsets in the beach, fish and sea food by the coast, excellent views of the Caribbean sea… however, staying in the place longer than a couple of days I started to realise that the community hasn’t yet lost its essence as many other places do when tourism becomes the driver of their local economy. Before tourism arrived within the last decade the sea was their only livelihood as the land that surrounds them is unsuitable for farming, there is no fresh water supply and very little rainfall.

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It was interesting to share a day with a group of fishermen, the technique they use is net fishing and that is based on “waiting”. Everything is quiet , the group of fishermen chat, play cards in the shade while one of them is in the sea snorkeling to see if shoal of fish are gathering in the catchment area of the net. When the snorkeler gives the signal the moment arrives for all hands on deck. Everyone runs to positions and wrap the net’s ropes and pull, pull strongly to take the shoal of fish. They need as many hands as possible and some other fishermen nearby come to help too. They keep on pulling until they realise there are no fish. Time to place the net again. For that they use a canoe, a hand made canoe carved from one tree trunk. They have been using this type of boats for many many years and still they use them. They are heavy, low sitting canoes with an almost flat bottom. Especially beautiful on the beach beside the modern fiberglass engine boats surrounding them. In these types of boats you can see how time passes, and how much these fishermen are connected to the sea being quite respectful with it.

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After waiting and waiting again the diver shouts again, and finally they got a great number of fish, a whole shoal of “cojinovas”. Time to leave today, it is 5:30 pm and the sun will set soon but there is still a final stop for them to be part of, back in the main beach in Taganga all of the fishermen groups come together to weigh the different catches, then is time to get a proportional amount of fish for each of the participant fishermen, the rest will go for either direct sale there, where the community is waiting for getting the best pieces for cheaper and the markets around. Still in Taganga fishing is the sole means of making money of many families and it was nice to see that the men fishing were a mixture of generations. They are just an organised number of groups fishing and still the familiar and community sense is still there.

Tourism is quickly becoming the main driver of their economy but it will never have the resilience that the fishermen have because of tourism’s heavy dependency on fresh water which daily is transported in trucks. The whole village needs this water and the people who live there have an awareness of the scarcity of fresh water that the tourists passing through generally don´t have hence posters all over the villages hostels and hotels which say “Taganga no tiene agua, cuidala” (Taganga has no water, look after it).

 

Seila Fernández Arconada

Cartagena de Indias (Colombia) 18th of July 2015.

[Re-posted by Jethro Brice 19th July, with minor edits]

SOH CAH TOAH

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Working as artists in multiple collaborative and community contexts, we’ve had to develop a pretty varied range of skills – knowing how to work with different materials, how to facilitate shared processes, how to improvise and find creative solutions to unexpected problems. But the best thing about collaboration, is that in the end it;’s not all down to you. Other people bring their own skills and knowledge (and stories, and ideas) – and you end up creating what you didn’t know you could.

Building Some:when has been a bit like that – surprises come up, things fall into place, people chip in and throw their different perspectives into the mix. This was evidenced in a small – but critical – way a few weeks ago, when we found ourselves trying to cut the triangles for the prow and stern – without a protractor…

Captain Peter arrived with impeccable timing and gave us an impromptu lesson in trigonometry.

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A couple of weeks later, it was time to put it all to the test as we assembled the locker and post structures. Thankfully, everything fitted together beautifully, and we ended up with a structure we hope is solid enough to ‘crack ice’ (as the Nova Scotian fishermen say) – or at least strong enough to take a few hard knocks when exploring uncharted flood waters, or traversing the length of the powerful Parrett!

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Some:when gathering and exciting news!

On Saturday we enjoyed another great visit to Somerset, this time to run a workshop more directed to adults in Langport. We wanted to generate a conversation around the project from a different angle, revisiting the history of the Somerset Levels and Moors and looking at poetry, a historical text about Somerset and an image of Bow Street (the main street in Langport) which we found in a visit at the Somerset Heritage Office, to provide inspiration for the discussion.

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The session was really interesting and we talked about all kinds of things: windmills, rivers, water, nature, hydro power, recovery, cycles, boats, history, canals, floods, willow, traditions and many more.

If you couldn’t attend the session and would like to have a look to the resources please do, here isthe link: Some_when_gathering. Feel free to share your thoughts with us!

 

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While we set up the workshop in the Town Hall we looked out on the Christmas market, that we had the chance to visit for a bit afterwards – what an excellent day for it!

We also popped down to visit the river Parrett, in an extraordinary light and  very low water level. This enabled us to see the vegetation at the bottom of the Parrett, which normally gets hidden by light reflections in the surface of the river.

 

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(photos taken from Cocklemoor, Langport)

To finish the post, we would like to share our excitement that we’ve found a fantastic space to build the Flatner!  The build will be taking place in the middle of January!!

So if you are as excited as we are, and you would like to know more about it do get in touch – we might even be able to arrange a visit to the site.

 

Workshops at the Curry Mallet Primary School

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Thanks again to the staff and pupils at Curry Mallet Primary School, who hosted us for two really rewarding sessions. We split the day between the older and younger pupils, and worked in groups across year groups to make sure everybody could take part. There were some really creative ideas and compelling images.
One group focused on recalling how the water flowed over a bridge, another set out a detailed landscape of saturated fields trans-sected by brimming rhynes. Others came up with inventive ideas for the future, including an under-water truck like a wheeled submarine, which would remain stable on the ground and not float, as well as a couple of space-borne craft. I was struck by the detail of some children’s observations and recollections – the precise way water over-spills the raised banks of a river, or the fine feathery branches of pollarded willows strung out along a rhyne.

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What an incredible, talented and entertaining group of young artists – we hope to see you all again!

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Sail making with young people in Langport…

Last week we were back in Langport for another great session with Langport and Huish Youth Club. We heard some interesting stories of young people’s experiences with the floods, some of them happy memories and some difficult.

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It was good to see the different ways people had found to move around and connect with their families or explore the landscape – from visiting grandparents by tractor, to horse riding in knee-high waters.

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The workshop brought up a lot of ideas. One participant’s immediate reactions was to make an image of deforestation – “because that affects the flooding”.

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Ideas became more complex as the session infolded – we’re looking forward to coming back again for more stories and beautiful images!

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Some more encounters on the Levels…

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Last week we made a lightning visit to Langport, where we held a small gathering for some of those interested in getting involved in the project (about which another post will follow!). The following day we met up with the Fidai ProFlo group – an exchange of social and physical scientists, planners and designers from the Netherlands, with artists, historians and local residents affected by floods in Somerset. Rhona Light kindly showed us around her partially-restored house, and shared an insight into the process of flooding and some of the ways this year had been different from the usual annual cycles of wet and dry.Screen shot 2014-09-22 at 13.58.07

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From there we went for lunch at the King Alfred, where Seila and I presented Some:when to the group and some members of the local FLAG group, and discussed possibilities for longer-term collaborations to continue the work Some:when has begun. After a lovely and lively meal we clambered up the steep sides of Burrow Mump to admire the view and listen to a brief presentation from Antony Lyons of NOVA, about his work on deep time perspectives on the Severn Estuary and Somerset Moors and Levels.

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Finally, we paid a quick visit to Anna’s incredible tythe barn, one of the sites for October’s conference. It was a swift goodbye as the Dutch contingent had a train to catch, but we had some really interesting discussions and are really looking forward to resuming the conversation at the conference on the 7th: http://www.aqua-deltamarnix.com/index-uk%20event.html