Issue 218
September/October 2021

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Jul 21, 2024

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Imagining the unimaginable: Berwick-under Tweed?

SEEMS LIKE the penny's dropped that climate change is here, just hope sea-levels take a bit longer to rise or, a century from now, it could be Berwick-under-Tweed, or Berwick-upon-Sea, perhaps.

Ahead of Cop-26 artists have been imagining the unimaginable, showcasing their work with Berwick Creative Guild and Berwick Visual Arts, now part of the Maltings complex of venues and galleries.

Coming up, from September 22 to 26, 'Elemental', hosted by Climate Action Berwick and Borders, is a programme of events, workshops and presentations linked by and to fire, earth, air and water.

One such is BCG's Pecha Kucha night, on September 22, when six artists, including Bridget Kennedy, Jules Bradbury, Stuart McAdam, Claire Ward, and Miranda Whall, the mud-crawler (see below), will present their work in PK format – 20 images screened for 20 seconds each, with a voice-over. It will be on zoom, so contact BCG if you would like to take part.

Polish artist Sabina Sallis's Multispecies Visionary Institute (see illustration right) has been in town throughout July and August, exploring innovative, creative and practical ways of changing how we engage with other creatures, plants and insects, with humans being somewhere in the middle of the pile rather than on top.

If that doesn't make sense, then try this: “The displacement of anthropocentrism and recognition of trans-species solidarity based on 'our' being in this together”. Sounds tricky, but actually it's living more simply, eating locally grown food, in season, and going less far, more slowly. The slower you go, the more in touch with time, place and space, and the greater the recognition of interdependence. Fast implies lack of time, slow is generous and calming. And stopping? Timeless, what else!

Miranda Whall has been going slow too, crawling the Pilgrim's Way, across the intertidal to Holy Island, with a May Tree on her back, to be both less and more human, “an absurd method of documentation, a gentle and radical way of dealing with urgency, and a futile endeavour”.

I like the implicit humour. Whether laughing or crying, we're asked to see and respect the tree as “a load, a message, a story, a gift, or warning”, our equal, a sentient being with a voice to be heard.

Sabina and Miranda reckon humans need to change, if we want to be around much longer. As James Lovelock has observed Gaia, our planet, self-regulates. The climate will just go on doing its thing, even without the Met Office's supercomputer. We came, we thought we had conquered, but now, perhaps, we're goners, unless, of course.....!?

Meanwhile, onshore, Gemma Burditt has been preparing her 'Future Landscapes' show at the Gymnasium Gallery. She's Berwick Visual Arts' current artist-in-residence, run in association with the Centre for Rural Economy at Newcastle University. She's been talking with six landowners, all addressing the challenge of change. A varied bunch, they include James Joicey, who runs the sizeable Ford and Etal Estates; Andy Craggs, Senior Reserve Manager for Lindisfarne Nature Reserve (National Trust); John and Mary Barber, from a traditional, mixed, family farm at Brackenside; and Andy Howard, Project Manager for the Doddington North Afforestation project - some 600,000 trees!

Her conversations embrace the land, animals and trees in their care, rewilding, and changes in response to the physical, environmental and political landscape, aka the challenges of climate change, Brexit, and the governmental policy of “public money for public good”.

She interprets these as layers, interconnecting strands that piece together to produce income, sustainable production, and a change to the look and experience of the countryside. The result is to be a large set-piece, a collage, tiered like traditional cut-out model theatre stages; together with an animation. If it's anything like her last show there, 'The Art of Milk', it'll be something special.

With upcycling and recycling in such vogue, 'QUILTS: Resurgence,' the forthcoming exhibition at Berwick's Granary Gallery, promises to be very much on message, as quilts have always been a great way of re-using bits and pieces of fabric in beautiful and imaginative patterns and designs.

Co-curated by Pauline Burbidge, from Allenbank Mill Steading, herself a renowned quilt artist, it will show how roots in traditional making have evolved in new and surprising ways, and will show contemporary quilts by Jo Budd, Cathy Corbishley-Michel, Diana Harrison, Sara Impey, Michele Walker, Laura Kemshall and Pauline herself, together with some heritage pieces from the collection of the Quilters' Guild of the British Isles. Just the right show to wrap up the year as winter approaches!

Up at The Barracks, English Heritage are working on exciting plans to make these splendid buildings into a new cultural hub for the town, complete with exhibition, gallery, studio and workshop space, together with residential apartments, a café, restaurant, and visitor accommodation too. Not a moment too soon, could be just what the town and its creative community needs.

A couple more things. Don't forget to check out Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival, from September 10 - 13, now in its 17th year, running in real-time and space, and online; not to mention Berwick Literary Festival from October 14 to 17....but that's another story!



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