A small group of us met for a Community Walk on Wardie Bay by Granton Harbour, and walked along the coast in the direction of the Forth Bridges. We slid on the ice as far as the Boardwalk Beach Club and then headed inland to Lauriston Farm.
We were scanning for eider, curlew and oystercatchers, birds which are all currently on the RSPB Amber List because they are under threat from ocean pollution and decrease in habitat and safe feeding grounds.
The UK’s breeding curlew population has halved in the last 25 years.
Dogs were chasing the waders and we talked about how much energy the birds expend escaping them, energy they cannot afford to use up when the ground is frozen at this time of year and short daylight hours are filled with finding food.
There were eider ducks floating, thank goodness, plus cormorants and herring gull, redshank, guillemot and turnstones, great crested grebe, mergansers, and grey plover.
Other sightings: crows, robins, magpies, blackbirds, fieldfare, a heron, and a flock of linnets.
Lauriston Farm, higher up, offers a glorious view of the Fife hills. We stopped to chat with Toni, one of the tireless team who run it, and Bob, a local birder who said the curlew “are definitely coming back”. Not ten minutes later as we walked to the bus stop, he was proved right. By the road was a group wandering and feeding, and again, taking off when they were disturbed, needlessly, by a jogger who ran through their midst.
A community walk along the edge of the Firth of Forth to look for eider ducks, oyster catchers and curlew which are all on the RSPB amber list. This is the first post of two. The story of the walk is here.
Why we walked
“Remembrance Day for Lost Species, November 30th, is a chance each year to explore the stories of extinct and critically endangered species, cultures, lifeways, and ecological communities.
Whilst emphasising that these losses are rooted in violent and discriminatory governing practices, the day provides an opportunity for participants to make or renew commitments to all who remain, and to develop creative and practical solutions.
Remembrance Day for Lost Species honours diverse experiences and practices associated with enduring and witnessing the loss of cultural and biological diversity“
Starting at the end of the Eastern Breakwater at Granton Harbour and walking along through the industrial area between Granton Square and the end of the Silverknowes walkway, continuing along the front, then turning inland to Lauriston Farm.
Lauriston Farm write: “The north section of the farm is dedicated to habitat creation for coastal birds – we’re working to create the right conditions to encourage curlews and other wading and coastal wintering birds to return to the farm so they can find undisturbed areas to roost and feed. We have also seen a family of grey partridge (a red listed species) on the farm this year, and our work to create meadows, wetlands, hedgerows, field crops and tree lines plus a mixed management regime on grasslands will support this species as well as the curlews and other coastal birds.
The message we really want to get across is that we encourage and support people to visit and go for walks on Lauriston Farm *and* we really need visitors to help protect the north and middle field as a habitat for these endangered bird species. We ask all visitors to stay away from the north and middle fields, and to keep dogs away from those fields (look out for the maps on the farm that show the protected areas) so that the birds are not disturbed. We maintain a large area of grass to the east of the market garden to give space for dogs to play away from the north fields.
I have been involved in a project devised and documented by Kel Portman. A curator on this Walking the Land project, his initial invitation set off a chain of coincidences and connections to do with the passing of time and how we experience sound.
“As the equinox marks the cusp of seasonal changes with the beginning of Autumn in the North and Spring in the South, artists record their reflections on the transition, the changes of light and the passing of time.”
Stretching Time was my contribution.
I walked in Edinburgh on consecutive days, photographing the sunset on the 22nd September, and the sunrise on the 23rd. As the earth’s axis comes perpendicular to the sun which crosses the equator from north to south, we, in the Northern Hemisphere, are traditionally celebrating harvest and know that we are moving into a darker and colder, more restful and reflective period. At this auspicious occasion, we pass through a time of near balance of 12 hours of daylight and 12 of night (equi-nox : equal-night).
I time-ordered my photos, made an equator-axis tip, and then overlaid the images. I had been reading about “light being stretched and becoming redder” in The Guardian (24/9/22), and inspired by the James Webb telescope photo of Saturn, used a bloody tint. On that day, I was on a train crossing from Scotland to England and added some words about my own feelings at this time.
As the sun hits the equator And the earth tilts an iota, I marvel.
As the cells die in my body, And the train hurls itself southwards, I cry.
As the rain stops at the border, And the year passes the baton, I know I must change.
Then in October I attended an opening at the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop where Alliyah Enyo‘s work, Selkie Reflections, is in the tower. It is an other-worldly soundscape, reminiscent of sea mammals’ song and Tibetan Tonqin Longhorn. She writes about whale sounds taking more time to travel through sea water, but being able to travel far longer distances, and she mentions stretching time:
This is much like the pathos experienced when listening to an audio recording of a person from years ago, as time is stretched and distended by a voice communicating from the past.
I had already been listening to David Haskell describing the way sea creatures hear with the whole body:
If I had a watery fish body, sound would penetrate through me. Aquatic beings are immersed in the sound that they’re in.
David George Haskell on Walk Listen Create
So, as I sat in the tower listening to Enyo’s installation, I imagined I was hearing through my watery, bodily fluids. My eyes were not shut, but I could see horizontal, parallel wavy lines between me and the walls, and there were layers of sound, not just of the composition itself, but of birds from the cycle path, voices from the bench beside me, and people speaking outside the tower.
The more we engage with what we used to refer to as a separate, natural world, the more it is obvious that we are part of that world, that we all influence and have the opportunity to influence each other. Humans are limited in the world of sound, compared to birds (which I have written about before No Birds Land) and dolphins, for example, and I’d be interested to hear if you have tried listening in different ways and if so, how that was for you.
Sound Walk and Art Installation, September 2021-September 2022
Sound Walk September, a global festival, has come round again and I am minded to reflect on the year that No Birds Land has been in the Trinty Tunnel on the Edinburgh cycle paths. Here is last year’s blog with all the details about location, transcript and documentation.
Funded by Sustrans and the RSPB, No Birds Land was shortlisted for a Sound Walk September award in 2021, and a year later, No Birds Land is still up, albeit in a different form.
The preparation time for No Birds Land consisted of lengthy email conversations, and long hiatuses between communications with lots of departments of the City Council and tunnel owners; a frustrating process. I was in contact with all my local MSPs and Councillors, most of whom were very helpful, and some who pulled strings behind the scenes I think. In the end someone (maybe anonymously) telephoned me and suggested I just went ahead instead of waiting for permissions!
Although I had initially planned for wooden A boards at either end of this place where birds cannot nest or sing and hardly ever fly, the signage folk persuaded me that street signs would be better, given the weather and so on, and they have been fantastic, standing stalwart through wind and rain. With their air of familiar street furniture, you need to look twice before realising that they are something a little bit different. Furthermore, covered in graffiti and stickers nowadays, they blend into the tagged landscape beautifully.
The sound endures on the cloud. The QR code printed in indelible inks, its distinctive black and white geometrical pattern prevailing, is the interface between the ubiquitous mobile phone and ‘Soundcloud’, where it sits waiting to be triggered and listened to. It’s an eerie experience for me to walk or cycle through and hear my own voice: “What can you hear? Hear, hear. What can you he-he-he…?”
I never thought it would still exist so much later, indeed I was asked how long it would be up and warned that it wouldn’t last long, what with vandals and so on, that I better watch out for any danger it might cause.
So what has changed?
The very long string of bunting with bird images and sounds on it, was trickier to install than I imagined even though I had my friend, tall-Andrew, to assist, so people stopped. They wanted to know what we were up to and immediately started to help. This community involvement has continued.
For 6 weeks it was untouched, but in October when I proudly led a group of Pilgrimage for COP26 hikers through to show them, it had suffered its first attack and much of it was lying in pools of bright orange water, the run-off from the walls which had collected ores and elements on its way down.
I had been checking almost daily before we left for Dunbar and the start of our Climate Trek. I would stand or sit close by to watch people interacting with it, listening to their conversations if they were in groups, and asking them what they thought if I sensed they were up for a chat. Despite my fears, it had stayed whole.
At this stage of the Pilgrimage, we had a journalist with us who was interviewing me as we walked and my distress was obviously clear because other members of the group started to kindly collect the parts and attempt to make good. However, we had to continue on our way to South Queensferry, so I phoned artist-Lesley that evening and asked her if she might do her best to attend to it until I was able to do so myself, and she kindly obliged.
It has taken on a life of its own
Since then, unseen passers by have often repaired and rehung lengths. I used to do it myself but after 6 months, I thought I would leave it to have its own life, and now I see new types of string connecting the pennants, and sections which weren’t there one day have magically reappeared the next. Little changes have been made, signalling the care that has been taken, and also showing, subtly to me, that there is understanding of the work itself.
The graffiti scrawlers add to it, another artist has complemented it, and nature has made many changes. Walking with Jim Slaven along the canal as part of the Art Festival in August 2022, I was interested to hear him comparing the 2 tunnels along the Forth and Clyde, how one was built soundly, is dry and in tact, and the other was not and lets in the rain. Well the engineer who built the Trinity Tunnel, Thomas Grainger (no relation, even though that’s the exact name of my grandfather who was also a tunnel engineer and worked in Trinity House in London!) didn’t do a great job, because ‘my’ tunnel is verr-ry damp.
And it seems to still have life because when people ask what I do and I tell them about No Birds Land, they know what I mean. They say “Oh yes, I’ve seen it and like it”. Walking along an adjacent path recently, I met a Community Policeman and he knew it too. Talking to dog walkers who were telling me what they thought of the new Sound Walk / Installation, The Wall (my entry for the Sound Walk September 2022), I heard, “Oh you are the artist! Yes, I listened to that and told my neighbours on the stair, ‘you must listen to The Wall’. We need more of these.” It’s heartening, of course.
What is much harder to ascertain, is the effect that No Birds Land has had. Has it informed people about the plight of our nesting birds and why that is happening? Has it suggested alternatives to the prevailing habits of designing glass buildings with no ledges for birds to perch on, nor eaves for them to make their nests under, for example? That is so much more difficult to guage.
This type of long-term intervention in a public space, which is used by commuters and other regulars as a through-way between the sea and the city, encourages people to eventually stop and check it out, it allows for re-listening and sharing with friends and family (I have been told this). It went up at the tail end of the Covid restrictions, at a time when walking was still super-popular, and so there is a high footfall (12-48 people an hour depending on whether it’s a week day or a Sunday). It has repurposed the space and brought art outside and to its audience.
This event was held on Sunday 2 October 2022 at granton:hub 12.15 – 2.15pm
It took the form of a floor-seated circle of participants, a ritual to contain our grief, a structure within which to allow feelings to flow at a manageable rate.
With respect and compassion, we facilitated a sharing circle and a safe space to bring grief and memories with a view to Re:live (both the past and in the future). It was held in the same room as the Death Café (the evening before) and the Re:living Art Exhibition.
After the circle, we went outside to burn the messages which visitors and participants had written and put in Bibo Kerley’s Kummer Kasten / Agony Box. We also added paper art that we had made during the Circle.
There was a Closing Ritual for this session and for the whole weekend.
Bea is an artist and educator whose practice explores ideas around death and loss, faith and ritual. She has taught and managed courses at Arts University Bournemouth, UAL (Camberwell, London College of Communication and Central Saint Martins), at EBAC in Brazil and Artslink in China. She is a Trustee for Lewisham Education Arts Network (LEAN) and a member of the Artist’s Group, Throes of Grief.
Tamsin is a community artist (No Birds Land, Trinity Tunnel; The Wall, Western Breakwater), complementary therapy practitioner, session leader, and author of Death and Loss in Shiatsu Practice (published by Singing Dragon Press).
30 Sep – 2 Oct 2022 granton:hub, (Madelvic House), Granton Park Avenue, Edinburgh EH15 1HS
The Re:living Weekend is a response to our human need to talk, walk, remember, and make art about the ever-present experiences of death, grief and loss in our lives. Whether we are grieving for a close friend, pet or family member; concerned about the loss of bird, insect or plant habitats and other changes to our climate; affected by war; or managing on-going / one-off life events around relationship, work and/or home loss, coming together with others to focus, share, or simply be with our feelings is supportive.
Or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. All events are free although donations (to cover costs) are welcome.
Re:living Art Exhibition
1st October 11am-4pm; 2nd October 2022 10am-12noon and 2.30-4.30pm at the Granton Hub (Madelvic House), Granton Park Avenue, Edinburgh EH15 1HS.
Showing the mixed media work of selected artists from Granton, Edinburgh and around the UK, this pop-up exhibition addresses themes of death, grief, loss, and re:living. This varied exhibition includes painting and drawing, artists books, sculpture, film and poetry.
We welcome everyone, whatever age, ability, status or gender. The walk- and workshop will be conducted in English. Please note that the walkshop will be fully accessible, however the Granton Hub is not fully accessible. We do have a portable ramp to allow wheelchair and powerchair users to get into the building, which you will have access to, and once in the building there is level access but no there is no wheelchair accessible toilet.
Walkshop: Friday 30 SeptemberMeet at Madelvic House for a 2pm departure. We will return there by 4pm.Book here
Participants will be taken on a prescribed route around the area immediate to the Granton Hub.
Participants will be invited to bring an object (or image) that speaks to them of absence and/or loss, to help channel thoughts and memories. This will be something small enough to hold in the hand, or put into a bag or back pack while walking. During the walk, we will be facilitating creative activities, so the object shouldn’t inhibit creativity.
During the Walkshop, participants will be invited to walk, sometimes in silence, and to respond to the environment and to their personal experience and thoughts about death, loss and grief through drawing, writing, recording, performance etc. There will be times to stop and draw, to record sounds, to photograph, to write or to perform.
Memory Art Workshop:Friday 30 September 4.30-6.30pm. Book here
The Memory Art Workshop will take place at Granton Hub after the Walkshop, and will begin with group reflection and discussion about experiences and feelings from the Walkshop.
During the Workshop, participants will be asked to witness and listen to each other, and are encouraged to share and talk about the drawings / photographs / sounds / writing that they made during the Walkshop. This is not a critique, and we do not expect participants to have any previous art and design experience or qualification.
Following this discussion, you will be invited to draw / write / record / photograph in response to your own and/or others work and shared experiences. Transformation is a key element in this Workshop – making new multi-layered works that materialise grief through transformation of images, words, sounds etc. Participants will create new works using simple techniques, that will be layered to form new composite works that will be exhibited at Granton Hub on Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd October.
All materials will be provided.
Please note that there will be a half hour break inside between the Walkshop and Workshop for refreshments (provided, though contributions gratefully received).
Saturday 1 October 6.30-8pm at granton:hub Book here
Death Café is a group meeting in person in Edinburgh where people can come to talk about death. Book via Eventbrite
Talking about death is not something that we can all do with our families and friends, and yet it is something which is so often on our minds.
At the Death Café, there is an emphasis on listening and sharing, and the focus is that life is finite and we want to talk about that. We all have interests and concerns about bereavement, loss, grief or dying, especially at this time when we are dealing with the Coronavirus and fears of war.
Bea Denton (London) is an artist and educator whose practice explores ideas around death and loss, faith and ritual. She has taught and managed courses at Arts University Bournemouth, UAL (Camberwell, London College of Communication and Central Saint Martins), at EBAC in Brazil and Artslink in China. She is a Trustee for Lewisham Education Arts Network (LEAN) and a member of the Artist’s Group, Throes of Grief.
Tamsin Grainger (Granton) is a community artist (No Birds Land, Trinity Tunnel; The Wall, Western Breakwater), complementary therapy practitioner, session leader, and author of Death and Loss in Shiatsu Practice (published by Singing Dragon Press).
1st October 11am – 4pm; 2nd October 2022 10am and 12noon and 2.30-4.30pm at the Granton Hub (Madelvic House), Granton Park Avenue, Edinburgh EH15 1HS.
We are inviting artist submissions for the Re:living Exhibition that address themes of Death, Grief, Loss, and Re:living. There is no prescribed media for submitted work, and can include art/design/craft.
All work submitted should be suitable for this Granton pop-up Community Centre setting. You can see details of the room here https://grantonhub.org/ including the Sphinx Room which size is 8.75m x 4.7m. The ceiling is 3.3m high.
Please send a digital image / brief description of the submitted artwork (no more than 3 items per person) with related web address (including contact details and social media), suggested selling price, and short bio (50 words max). Publicity photos/short video of you and your work will be required if selected.
A 20% commission will be taken by Granton Hub on all individual works sold, and fees payable for the work sold will be made by bank transfer within 2 weeks of the close of the exhibition.
Your work should be no bigger than A2 size (or thereabouts) and will be either wall, table (a basic refectory type table), or floor-mounted (note: there is a carpet, so no water, earth, sand etc unless completely contained). If wall-based, work should be framed and include mirror plates or D rings.
Please include the running time (in minutes) for video and audio works, and a short description of the piece. If video or audio work is selected, artists will need to supply playback equipment and ensure that it is PAT tested, with proof of compliance PRIOR to the exhibition opening.
We have a screen and moveable seating available for public showings. Artists will need to bring their own plinth(s) if needed.
If your work is selected, it must be delivered directly to the venue on Friday 30 September at 1pm or 6.30pm, and collected on Sunday 2nd October between 4.30 and 6.30pm. Please note that this is a group exhibition of mixed media work in a non-formal gallery setting (blue carpet, walls painted either pale green or white), and will be exhibited between on Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd October only. You are encouraged to attend and engage with the public during these times.
It is your responsibility to insure your work and neither we, nor the Granton Hub, can take any liability for its loss or damage.
It will be assumed that the organisers will be able to take photos during the event which can be used on social media and websites. Credits will be included where feasible.
We regret that Madelvic House is not fully accessible. We do have a portable ramp to allow wheelchair and powerchair users to get into the building, which you will have access to, and once in the building there is level access, but no there is no wheelchair accessible toilet.
Deadline for submissions: 9th September 2022
We will make our decision by: 16th September 2022
Final photos and other information will be required by: 23rd September 2022
Address for submissions: email@example.com
Part of the Separation and Unity Project, Cataluña, July 2022
This wall hanging, ‘Festivities and Delegates’ represents an act of unity, the bringing together of many of those who attended the Walking Art and Relational Geographies International Encounters conference in Cataluna in July 2022. Planned for several years, but thwarted by the pandemic, delegates were at last able to travel from Australia, South Africa, Brazil, America and Europe to the conference in Girona, Olot, and Vic to share walking art and community projects via presentations and walkshops over a period of a week.
This work was inspired by the 18th /19th century ‘Saints and Festivities for the months of April to November’ in the Museu Montserrat. I climbed up there after attending the conference. The ornate Russian ‘menologion’ is a calendar featuring rows of saints, above which are their names and the dates of the days on which they are honoured, in cyrillic script.
A menologion (menologium, menology, menologue, menologia) was sometimes a liturgical ‘office’, an ecclesiastical, Eastern Orthodox service book or martyrology; a long list of saints and the details of their lives arranged according to the months of the year.
It is not dissimilar to the secular mural at the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh depicting key figures and events in the history of Scotland. The Separation and Unity Project is interested in the movements towards and away from independence by Scottish and Catalonian peoples, at what urges us to separate from, or join with each other.
I am also referencing Buddhist and Hindu mandalas, and other celebratory depictions used to inspire their followers and remind them of the true path. Mandalas come in many shapes and sizes, often using geometric arrangements. They can represent the whole universe, and be used as a way to separate from everyday existence and focus on what is important for greater knowledge. The Vajrabhairava mandala, for example, is a silk tapestry woven with gilded paper depicting lavish elements like crowns and jewelry.
The human mind is like “A microcosm representing various divine powers at work in the universe”
John Ankerberg and John Weldon (343:1996) via Wikipedia (see below)
Process and production of Festivities and Delegates
I took digital photos and video stills from my phone documentation of the conference and the social time we spent together, and manipulated the images using free Layout software. In some cases I used social media images. Instead of the elaborate calligraphy that you can see on the Russian ‘Festivities…, I wrote free-hand with my finger or with a biro.
Details: 160cm long and 70cm wide, mixed media – sewed from scraps of upholstery fabric which came from free sample books. Ribbons, tapes and sundry, shiny objects such as bells, earings which have lost their pairs, and sequins. Iron-on paper was used to transfer the photographs onto the fabric.
It incorporates a number of small brass and other metal bells, with reflective totems. These were/are often used to ward off evil spirits, to bring ones attention into the moment, to reflect the devil’s face back to him, and, contrastingly, even to represent the sound of the Buddha’s ‘voice’ spouting wisdom. The protective aspect would also traditionally have been as much from the ‘monkey mind’ and other natural inner temptations, as from what might be attacking us from the outside. Tantric mandalas would have been an aspect of separation and protection from the outer Samsaric world.
Quote: from their ‘Encylopedia of New Age Beliefs: The New Age Movement’, (p. 343, ISBN 9781565071605 archived from the original on 2016-06-03, retrieved 2015-11-15)