Maindee, Newport Wales, December 2017
The River Exe, in Exeter 2016
photo credit: Nicola Easterby
For the Birds
Otari Wilson Native Bush Reserve, Wellington, New Zealand, 2016
photo credit: Sara Penrhyn Jones
Water Water Everywhere (part 1)
Our first Water Water Everywhere event took place on the beach in Borth on the 26th August. Led by Anne and Bodge, holiday makers and other beach-goers made the town of Borth out of sand and found objects until the incoming tide washed the town into the sea.
photo credit: Tom Gunn
Water Water Everywhere (part 2)
The streets were lined with people watching short films projected onto the houses along that straight, wind blown, beach backed road.
The films were around the theme of flooding, migration, cultural heritage and the future.
First off there was a loop of two films. The first one, made by Aberystwyth based SaraPenrhyn Jones was about Kiribati, which is a small island in the South pacific which has already started going under water due to sea level rise. The population of this island face a real threat of climate change induced migration. The powerful film explored ideas around what this means in terms of cultural identity. The second film on the loop was The Level, by artist/filmmaker Mazaher for Metaceptive Projects and Media, originally commissioned for the Footprint Modulation Exhibition. Created with support from Maya Chowdhry and Kooj Chuhan. Copyright 2015, Mazaher and Metaceptive. All rights reserved. Over the past 2 years the UK Climate change and Migration Coalition have compiled testimonies from people who have moved due to the impacts of climate change. Artists Mazaher and Maya Chowdhry used these testimonies and other footage to create a powerful film. The testimonies were read by actors and interspersed with real footage from climate-linked disasters.
Onto a nearby house we projected another two beautiful films by Sara Penrhyn Jones with sound by Richard Gott, the first about a Borth-based glaciologist named Alun Hubbard. The film followed him on his boat trip from Aberystwyth to Greenland to look at ice melt and interviewed him on his thoughts about the future of Borth in relation to his findings. The second was some spectacular footage of the new sea defenses in Borth being installed. The footage was taken at night and reversed so that the enormous rocks seemed to emerge gracefully from a misty sea. Many people commented that this was their favorite film.
On the house next door an interview with local Councilor Ray Quant was screened, made by Sara Penrhyn Jones and Esther Tew with. Borth resident Ray was the man responsible for the new sea defenses and we interviewed him about the history of Borth’s relationship with the sea and what he thinks will happen in the future. On a loop with this film were interviews with people filmed as the sea defenses were going in
Across the road from the Friendship Inn was a film made by Harriet Wallis and Esther Tew, with some footage from Sara Pinyin Jones and sound by Richard Gott. This film compiled footage taken from the beach workshop earlier in the summer where we made a sand-sculpture Borth in the intertidal zone with people on the beach and then watched as the tide washed it away with interviews with holiday makers and local residents about what makes Borth unique, what their thoughts on the sea defences are and how they imagine Borth to be different from now in 100 years time when the sea defences have stopped working.
Next to the Friendship Inn we projected our final film, made with footage from the FourWinds Ceremony held annually at the Borth Carnival. This ceremony gets people to sit on chairs in the sea and wait as the tide comes in while having buckets of water thrown at them, the last boy and girl still left on their chairs at the end are crowned king and queen of Cors Fochno for the year in a crowning ceremony which brings together touching speeches from the four winds. This film was screened in memorial to Lez, a pillar of the Borth community, who wrote the ceremony.
photo credit: Tom Gunn
During and following the projections, the Friendship Inn kindly hosted a conversation collection evening which co-insided with the monthly Borth folk session.
We were lucky enough to hear songs by the sea shanty group, including one about shallow ground which resonated all too well with the conversations happening around us.
We put out a large sheet of paper to encourage more visual discussions. The beachfront houses were drawn and filled with water, then upside-down houses were drawn on top of them with people fishing out of the windows and growing trees on the tops.
We had a great variety of ages in this session and merpeople featured prominently from young to old.
The session climaxed with group drawing mayhem, where we chalk pastelled over most of the drawings, destroying and remaking in a frenzy.
Water Water Everywhere (part 3)
First off I’d like to thank the Tir A Mor café for welcoming us in and providing such excellent tea, coffee, locally made cakes and scones.
We set up a room upstairs with big paper and lots of craft and drawing materials. We also put up stills and quotes from the videos played the night before.
Below are some of the conversations we had
What do you think of the sea defenses?
I don’t like them, I don’t like walking on the stones, I’ve hardly been on the beach at all since they’ve gone in and I used to go on every day. We used to walk along to school and you cant a lot of the time now. I’m not that convinced its going to work. I think it’s got a time limit on it – not a very long one…
Is it worth it at all do you think?
Yes, definitely. It’s definitely worked because you all got flooded the year before it was done. Compared to what we got flooded down the shop end.
The sea’s so powerful isn’t it?
I just don’t like the way it physically looks
I quite like the coves that are forming between the breakwater
I miss the groins, the wooden groins and some of it is like a car park rather than a beach, the way the stones have settled. I do like the way the rocks are settling in and the light around the rocks.
There’s a lot of life there
Every year there’s more seaweed and kelp, it’s getting richer and richer
And all the birds really make use of it, the cormorants have stood there, they love it
I don’t like the shape and size of the stones, I must admit. But I think it would work
It might make a difference but only for a very short time, I don’t think its really going to stop the sea
Its seems such a huge amount of money and such an environmental impact bringing all that stuff in for such a short time that its going to work
Do you think if they’d offered to spend the money relocating everyone in Borth instead, that you lot would have said yes? Together but somewhere else.
It’s an interesting thought
Where would we move?
Up the hill
It’s more about protecting the railway line than the people
And the road
That’s going to be a matter of time
If they’ve only given us 40 years then the railways going to be under water
Access to Aberystwyth
Maybe they’ll do a bypass like they’re going to do in Machynlleth
The cliff is eroding anyway so we can’t go that way we’d have to go inland
That’s the bog
The reason I’m in Borth is because of the sea
I think a lot of the people who live here are taking their chances anyway.
They say, “I’m not going to buy”
They say “Its going to last my lifetime”
My kids aren’t expecting any inheritance anyway
What is about Borth that makes it worth it?
The good community definitely
Its so beautiful around this area, you could live in Taliesin and you’d still have
Everything that’s here, because it’s really close, but it hasn’t got that wildness
Just being so close to the sea, it so mental and right in your face
Looking out the windows and seeing dolphins and seals and shoals of fish and
Thousands of birds diving in.
People were stopping their cars last week with all those dolphins, people trying to
Get round them but they’d just stopped. We’ve got that we live there.
We don’t have to come on holiday here
Hundreds of gannets diving at once it’s like being in a wildlife movie
We’re so lucky
I don’t know where I’d move to
When my house is being flooded I’ll be trying to get into the pub
We’ll just go upstairs
We’ll live upstairs
It’ll be like Venice
You’ll be punting around
Forget skateboards everyone can get on paddleboards
We wont have a bus anymore; we’ll have to paddle board to work.
There’s plenty of wind for sailing
Do you think that living somewhere that’s been really affected by climate change? Or will be really affected by climate change has made anyone live differently, more sustainably or think about their carbon footprint?
Yes, I’ve always tried to do that, ever since I realised when I was about late teens.
It is really in your face in Borth isn’t it?
You know there’s an inevitability whereas in a lot of places you don’t see it so it’s easy to forget
I think its interesting, I work in renewable energy all the time and living by the sea hasn’t made it any stronger, its almost cuz its such a slow process, its quite easy to ignore it as well. It feels it will be a long time in the future, even though it might not be. It’s a contradiction for me.
It’s a funny time, because we don’t know, its not like we know that in 10 years time the sea will be here.
It could be anything between .2 of a meter and a meter difference in 50 years
What is it that Allan Hubbard said last night in that film, its rising 3mm a year and 1mm of that s attributed to the Greenland ice sheets and he was directly linking that with Borth.
Spot the man who lives up the cliff
He’s the man who knows
I’m not going to live on that shingle bank.
Dyfi Valley 2015
For the Birds
Glacier Bottle Tunnel
Glastonbury Festival, 2013
An interactive sound and light installation as part of the Greenpeace Save the Arctic campaign, using recycled plastic bottles and coloured water. Led by Esther Tew in collaboration with May Abdulah, Harriet Wallis, Katie Hastings, Dan Gifford and Rosie Strickland.
Sounding the River
Midlands Arts Centre and the River Rae 2013
The project explored the River Rea as a key connecting point for Birmingham, revealing its often hidden route through the centre of the city and its celebrating its connections by creating a dynamic night time journey of sound, light and performance, which flowed from mac arts center along some 2.5km of riverside and woodland trails.
The work included over twenty installations and performances spread out over river walkways parkland and woodland.
The event occurred over four nights in October 2013 and was attended by over 3000 people.
‘Quite simply the most memorable time I have had in Birmingham in 30 years, sophisticated and cutting edge…the scale of the project was vast’ Birmingham Post
Machynlleth Comedy Festival, 2013-2015
The Woodland Pavilion was a temporary outdoor performance space, located in a small patch of managed woodland on the grounds of Y Plas, Machynlleth, throughout the summer months of 2013, 2014 and 2015. It was designed by Jenny Hall of Craftedspace, and lit my Esther Tew with funding from Sustainable Tourism Powys’ ‘Sense of Place’ grant scheme, the Machynlleth Comedy Festival, and Glasu. The Woodland Pavilion opened at the beginning of May 2013 to serve as an additional venue for the Machynlleth Comedy Festival.
Frongoch Boatyard, Dyfi Estuary 2012
Estuary lab was Jony Easterby’s National Theatre Wales’ funded Wales Lab Project, a meeting of individuals with a diverse connection to the estuary and the sea. Exploring physical, mythological, conceptual ideas for the inspiration of a new event.
Practical experiments into space, performance, structure, architecture, archeology and form in the intertidal zone of the estuary.
Gwdy Hw, 2014
Glastonbury Festival, 2011
Project with Recycled Venues to build a giant fish out of old CDs for Greenpeace at Glastonbury 2011.
A structure of hazel poles supported the CDs which were held in place with woven willow. People could walk through and take shelter from the mud and sun under the speckled shade.
The CD’s were kindly donated by Viridor recycling, who collect CDs for reprocessing into plasma TVs in China!
Consuming the Environment
Centre for Alternative Technology, 2013
A series of absurd and sustainable devices invented by Esther Tew.
Advertisers always worked hard to convince us that their product was the best, what we’d always needed, that we needed to have it right now. Using a sophisticated toolkit of techniques, they pushed our psychological buttons until we were putty in their hands. They’d play on sex, psychological pressure, our own feelings of inadequacy. They’d promise happiness, health, fitness, and “improved” appearance. They’d manipulate our sense of belonging, our social status, our identity, our desire for adventure, distraction, reward, our fears of llness, weakness, loneliness, need, uncertainty and security. But as concern about sustainability began to move up the agenda, a crack appeared in the picture. As the media began to report on climate change, images of worsening natural disasters, flooding and famine began to seep into our consciousness. Consumers began to feel guilty about the energy intensive products and services they were buying. They began to consider purchasing durable and useful items that would last, instead of cheap plastic tat, designed to break just in time for the next fad. Just as attitudes might have been changing, the advertisers responded with a new trick designed to promote consumerism-as-usual. New products began to appear on our televisions and in our magazines – products remarkably similar to the ones that had preceded them, but with one major guilt-reducing difference. These products were “green”, “eco-friendly” and “sustainable”. They were organic, offset, renewably powered, recycled and recyclable. Your wallet would be made out of organic hemp, the envelopes your short haul plane tickets arrived in would be biodegradable. The advertisers are trying to out-maneuver our dis-satisfaction with consumerism-as-usual. But I long to think we are more astute than that, that we have more common sense. It is immediately clear that the products in this exhibition are a pointless waste of materials andenergy. But, I would argue, so is much of what is advertised in shops, on the internet, on the television and in the papers. If you aren’t already, start looking closer at the things you’re being sold as ‘ethical’ and decide for yourself if you really need them, or if they are just the latest rubbish that the advertisers have figured out how to make us crave.
Food for thought
Set design for a National Theatre Wales’ Assembly programme which offered the Welsh community of Machynlleth the opportunity to explore and discuss through promenade theatre the controversial topic of local food production versus supermarket chains.
This was particularly poignant as the town hosts Wales’ oldest market and Tescos were planning to open a superstore, the issue divided the town as it had never been discussed in a safe environment.