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

Fluid Tense: Exploring watery pasts and futures of St. Werburghs II

Fluid Tense: exploring watery pasts and futures of St. Werburghs with local artists Jethro Brice and Seila Fernández Arconada

This creative, participatory workshop explores the past, present and future waterscapes of St. Werburghs and the surrounding area, each person contributing a small piece to a surprise outdoor spectacle.

This workshop took place in Bristol (UK) the 16th of September 2014 as part of the project HighWaterLine (www.highwaterline.org).

Thanks to all the participants.

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Fluid Tense: exploring the watery pasts and futures of St Werburghs

In keeping with the watery themes of Some:when, Bristol’s High Water Line Project is an ambitious attempt to map out the 32 mile edge of Bristol’s flood risk zone to highlight the threats of rising sea levels and accelerated climate change. Originally conceived as a solo performance by artist Eve Mosher, who walked the line in New York shortly before Hurricane Sandy made it a reality, the High Water Line project has become an international pop-up community project bringing together people in diverse cities around the world to think and talk about community responses to climate change. High Water Line Bristol is happening as I type – community groups and local residents from different areas have each taken on sections of the route, passing on the chalk markers from day today in a city-wide orchestrated performance.

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Though the line is based on Environmental Agency maps, the idea of the project is not so much to make an accurate flood prediction as to generate encounters and conversations. From planning and production through to the actual performance and subsequent events, the process provides a forum for people to meet and talk in ways they might never have considered. These connections and conversations are what make a community strong. As project coordinater Isobel Tarr says: “We know that communities come together after a disaster. We want to see if we can do that before a disaster too”.

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We both live in Bristol, close to the high water line. On Tuesday we will be marking out Seila’s local stretch of the line. In the evening there is a local history walk looking at St Werburghs’ flood histories of flooding, and following that we will be running a short participatory session at a local independent farm cafe:

This creative, collaborative workshop with local environmental artists Jethro Brice and Seila Fernandez Arconada will explore the past, present and future waterscapes of St Werburghs and the surrounding area. Through storytelling, mapping and collective performance, we will explore what water means in our lives and how can we learn to live with its wilder side.

Water in St Werburghs

A welly of water will do

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We were sitting in the library when the phone rang, books stacked about our feet and on the little side table. We had divided the morning between phone calls and local history books, on the trail of the elusive Parrett Flatner. So far we had three interesting photographs, and one promising conversation. Now on the phone was Ron Coombes of Bineham City Farm, kindly inviting us out for a look at his hand-built punt, recreated from the original specifications of Colonel Hawker

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Cycling as fast as we could in the baking sun, we made it out to the farm just in time to catch Ron on his lunch break. He took us out to the barn to admire the boat, a long, low craft built constructed from light timber and marine ply, painted a wintry pale grey. Holding his hand to the side of his Wellington boot to show just how little water was needed to float the boat, he described the extent of the Winter floods and the trips he’d taken wild-fowling with his dogs when the Levels were submerged.

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Standing by the boat with the sun at our backs and the cool musty smell of the barn before, our quest at last began to take on material qualities – the feel of the marine plywood, the weathered texture of the flaking paint, smells of straw and wood, oil, rust and dung. The swallows among the rafters and the wet nose of the dog gently sniffing about our ankles. This wasn’t exactly the boat we were after, but its flat bottom and homegrown feel gave us a taste of what we were after. Ron said the boat has carried them for miles across the floodplain, needing very little to keep afloat. Running aground on the mud, it takes only a quick shove to get going again. It seems an ideal boat for access and mobility in an unstable and unpredictable water-scape.

At the back of the house, another boat lay upturned on the narrow lawn, a battered fibreglass dinghy propped beside the rusting garden gate. Ron marked out the line for us, where the water had reached halfway up the  drive. The house, the yard and the cattle sheds were safe on high ground, but a boat was still a handy thing to have about.

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Cycling back, we stopped besides golden fields of sunbaked corn beneath an innocent blue sky. The smell of warm earth, tarmac and milky thistles revealed nothing to our of the wet, waterbound Winter months.

Encounters in Langport – how spontaneity generates collaboration

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We’ve opted for an open and spontaneous approach with this project – floating an idea and seeing where it takes us, following the threads that arise from collective responses. The research trip was directed by the people we met, pointing the way to new encounters with particular places or people. Their interest in the project has in turn shaped our own, bringing different approaches and expertise to flesh out our original ideas.

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We met some great people, whose enthusiasm and knowledge have helped us explore or resolve some of the big questions that face us. We were able to look at construction of the actual boat, floating different suggestions and even testing out some possible materials in an impromptu living-room experiment. We explored the historical and social background, talking to people about their experiences, consulting local books and historians. We began to immerse ourselves in the space, exploring Langport and its surroundings, sought out community groups in order to know how they would like to engage with the project , and even took a canoe out onto the River Parrett, to explore what will be the final event of this project, the Flatner‘s journey downstream from Langport to Bridgewater.

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The journey Some:when has started is vibrant and beautiful. Thank you so much to everyone who has made it a success so far – thanks to Carol, Steph, Josh, Lorraine, Ron, Cara, Hannah, Claire, Alan, Angus, Janet, Caroline, and everybody else who made us feel welcome and inspired.  More updates to follow soon!

The cycle in

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This was our first research trip for Some:when – a chance to meet people, learn about the place, connect with the water, track down information about the elusive Flatner, and start piecing together plans for making the boat.

To get to Langport we decided to take the train to Bridgwater and follow the waterways inland, cycling cross-country to get a feel for the watery landscape of the Somerset Moors and Levels.

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As far as we could, we followed the River Parrett – tracing in reverse the planned journey of the Flatner. Close as we were to the water, we barely saw it – instead we found ourselves cut off from the river by the high embankments, hemmed in between pumping stations and dusty hedges.

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The brief spectacular views of the river showed us a rapidly changing scene, from the mud slicks and buried bicycles of Bridgwater to bucolic, leafy bends, canal boats and herons. Further upstream, we came suddenly on the signs of dredging – long armed diggers perched above smooth-sided, geometrical slopes of clean-scraped mud. A small sign beside a row of riverside houses read ‘Dredge the Rivers’ in vivid red paint. Signs were everywhere: warning signs, planning notifications, road closures, and – scrawled across the road in white spray paint – ‘Flooded To Here’.

The view from Burrow Mump had transformed. We had each been here before, earlier in the year, to see the broad silvery reaches of the Winter floods. I recalled the flocks of wildfowl strung out along field edges, wheeling lapwings, and swans bright against the dark strings of willow. Now two buzzards circled, lazily calling, above hay meadows and lush green fields. We refilled our water bottles at the King Alfred Inn and set off towards our first rendez-vous at the SAW offices in Langport. The road dipped between lush meadows then wound its way into a cluster of steep hills. Gradually we climbed above the floodplain and made our way into Langport.

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