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The MCZ Undercliff Path Project

‘Look out to sea! Who lives beneath the waves? The ocean and the chalk seabed off the coast from Brighton are home to starfish, seahorses, cuttlefish, catsharks, anemones, crabs, lobsters, sea snails, mussels, oysters and many other creatures, as well as seaweeds including kelp. The chalk gullies, habitats and wildlife here are protected as part of our local Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ).’

– ‘Home’ signage text

Schools without Walls  and ONCA collaborated on ‘Home’ – an environmental education and art project that celebrates the local Marine Conservation Zone*.  The project was supported by the Adur and Ouse Partnership, Rampion Offshore Wind, Arts Council England and Brighton & Hove City Council.

‘Home’ used creativity, play and nature connection to inspire young people about marine conservation and celebrate biodiversity in The Living Coast. In sessions with children from three East Brighton schools (St John The Baptist, Longhill and St Margaret’s) in summer 2019, participants built dens and habitats, and imagined what ‘home’ might mean for the more-than-human residents of the Marine Conservation Zone. The workshops raised awareness about the marine environment – in particular about the MCZ’s intertidal zone, chalk gullies, reefs and extraordinary wildlife – whilst encouraging children to spend time outdoors. 

Building on this process, local artist David Watson made two ‘Home’ sculptures, with accompanying signage, whose purpose is to delight and engage people on the Undercliff Path with the Marine Conservation Zone and The Living Coast. The sculptures are made from waste, including amongst other things, salvaged aeroplane wheels. Installed on the Undercliff Path at the Marina and Ovingdean in October 2021, they not only enhance the experience of visitors, but increase appreciation of the precious world hidden beneath the waves just beyond the beach.

Introduction by artist David Watson: 

What does home mean to you? It could make you think of:

  • A place of safety to nurture family and welcome friends
  • Space to grow and flourish
  • Current issues – refugees, homelessness, and climate change (Earth as home)
  • Homes that nurture our spirituality (churches); on the coast to protect us (Martello towers); at sea (lighthouses); vessels to explore (sailing ships, the Nautilus, and space ships)
  • Homes to play and escape (beach huts, sheds)
  • Our minds and bodies.

Homes are essential for us and all living things. This project is about the habitats of those creatures at sea in the Marine Conservation Zone – an area identified as having a fantastic range of biodiversity and in need of protecting. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine what’s there – but we can find clues:

  • Rock pooling on the chalk beds reveals amongst other things shell fish, crabs, starfish, seahorses and the wonderful boring piddocks (angel wings) that live their whole life inside a hole they have drilled in a rock.
  • Beachcombing might present some mermaids’ purses (baby shark homes)
  • Chalk – where does chalk come from? Millions of tiny sea creatures!
  • Flint – where does flint come from? Why does it form into these knobbly shapes? Wow, what a story!

The children were presented with the theme of habitats and homes and provided with information and materials. They began to use their imaginations to write, draw, paint and build wonderful places for imaginary creatures and communities to live. Their sense of storytelling was inspiring and limitless. Embedding stories provided the starting point for the project and echoed the hidden stories found along the Undercliff walk. Some of the connections below were used to decide the forms, materials, colours and content of the artworks:

  • St Bartholomew’s Church, Brighton – a local, popular, urban myth says its dimensions are based on those of Noah’s Ark. This links it to stories of sea level rise and flooding.
  • The colour purple – used by royalty and priests for centuries as a symbol of wealth, purple dye was made from millions of sea shells. Blue and red have been used in the sculptures instead!
  • Holes made by the wonderful boring piddocks.
  • Lenses – in order for us to apply our own values of home to other creatures we probably need to completely change our perspectives. When we are born the lenses in our eyes turn the world upside down and we see it that way. After a while our brain turns it around again. This is a wonderful visual metaphor for innocence and the lenses used in ‘Homes’ turn the images upside down. Lenses encourage us to look in the direction of the MCZ and imagine what is beneath the waves.
  • Climate change – The materials used have mostly come from ethical sources: the wood is from offcuts, the circular discs in the plinths are from old aeroplane wheels, the metal flanges come from waste water services, the concrete is from old paving slabs, the ballast is made of pebbles.
  • A love of the Undercliff Path – the materials and forms have been sensitively chosen to visually belong to this beautiful, inspiring, brutal and sometimes scary place.

When you look at or through the sculptures, perhaps you will think of the habitats of those creatures under the sea and connect to your own feelings of home.

THANKS TO: 

  • The teachers and children at St John The Baptist, Longhill and St Margaret’s schools – they helped develop and fill the project with fun, imagination, energy and purpose. Extra thanks to Giuseppe Iozzi.
  • Adur & Ouse Catchment Partnership 
  • The Rampion Fund
  • Arts Council England
  • Brighton & Hove City Council
  • NaviLens
  • Ovingdean Café & Liz Shreeve
  • Blind Veterans UK

Visit thelivingcoast.org.uk to learn more about the MCZ and the project.

 

*Beachy Head West Marine Conservation Zone stretches along the coastline from Brighton Marina to Beachy Head (with a gap at Newhaven) and extends half a nautical mile seaward. Areas benefiting from the MCZ include the Heritage Coast within the South Downs National Park, the eastern half of the Brighton and Lewes Downs Biosphere (The Living Coast) and part of the Seven Sisters Voluntary Marine Conservation Area


If you would like to find out more about ONCA projects click here. 


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Posted on September 24, 2021
Categories: Education for Sustainability, O N C A Projects
Tags: , , , , , ,

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