At the beginning of 2019 we (Stacie Lee Bennett-Worth and Bethan Peters) were commissioned by Turner Contemporary to deliver a series of workshops and develop a new artwork as part of Seaside Photographed a major exhibition examining the relationship between photographers, photography and the British seaside from the 1850s to the present.
The British seaside is famed for being a place of leisure, arcades, holidays and ice-cream on the beach, but life by the coast can also be full of isolation, with high levels of social and economic deprivation recorded in coastal towns.
In collaboration with Thanet Early Years, this project aimed to reach out to families who might not have access to free workshops such as this one and as artists we wanted to provide a space and framework for participants to explore their hometowns with a new found appreciation and curiosity.
The project brought together local families from around Thanet in a workshop series titled Tide and Seek and taking inspiration from the children – who ranged from age 0-4 – the sessions foregrounded the joy of the seaside through play, movement and digital media.
Through guided play and movement we invited participants to make connections to the environment by exploring, looking, moving and creating in new ways – we swooped like seagulls, we took polaroids of one another and we used the patterns created by the natural environment to create a framework for our workshops. Tides, clouds and sand patterns featured heavily in the movement explorations and in taking the lead from the children the sessions were imaginative, fun and of course flexible to change!
In foregrounding the child perspective as the most important within the sessions, the adults in the space were given permission to be free of their inhibitions. Collectively, the participants developed their confidence over the series and as we – the artists – learned more about the individual characters, we were able to tailor the workshops to support their interests and curiosities. This meant we were able to build a strong core group of participants and the environment was fun, supportive and collaborative.
Why is this project relevant?
Our collaborative practice is rooted in the power of play and the relationship between people and place. As dance artists, we work across disciplines, generations and mainly in outdoor spaces – coincidentally this is our second coastal collaboration – and there is always a choreographic element to our work.
This project is particularly relevant, as research shows that play and dynamic movement between parent and child can facilitate cognitive and emotional awareness of self and environment. This relationship and potential for learning when parent and child connect through movement is was a key driver in the development of this work, with the coast being a diverse, interesting and ever changing environment to explore.
High Tide | Low Tide (2019)
The film – which is part home movie, part cine-choreography – traces tender moments of fun, laughter and love as families play, dance and embrace on Margate’s beach. Projected onto the floor of the main gallery – like 3 irregularly placed scattered postcards – the film was made with the galleries younger visitors in mind and was a homage to the families who participated in the workshops in the style of moving portraits.
Tide and Seek (2019)
Large vinyl floor map & resource
Tide and Seek is a floor map and game – inspired by the coastlines of Thanet (Margate, Broadstairs, Ramsgate, Westgate-on-sea) – represents the way children explore space in a curious way, sometimes rolling, jumping, waving, turning, swinging and falling as they go. With ‘meeting points’ and ‘action symbols’ designed to provoke connections and movement in the space, the work invites you to journey through the exhibition in a new way and explore the gallery through the eyes of a child.
This project aims to develop a workshop framework for Early Years provisions to be able to adapt to use with families who live in coastal towns.