Because the work of Rachel Carson did not cross my radar until my mid-20s I spent my childhood wanting to be Jacques Cousteau. Had I known about Carson sooner maybe I’d have followed through on one of three career ambitions and studied to be a sub aqua geologist. As an aside my second of those three ambitions was to join the armed forces to become a diver (something I nearly did at the Newcastle Navy office in 1983). It’s clear I did neither of these things and went for the third, writer option instead. I’ve no regrets and Hydropoetic is allowing me to return to the sea and the work/research of people I admire as well as providing a platform for new outputs & processes. There’s some great scholarly work around Carson and her writings, however, I can’t believe she’s not more widely known. Silent Spring was the first book of hers I encountered but her other non-fiction about the sea has changed my life: all her books affect me in profound ways that I now want to explore through my poetic and collaborative practices.
The Carson play in development
Last year, in November 2013, and because of my interest & experience in art-science, I was approached by Monkfish Productions – a northeast-based theatre company – and have been commissioned to write an experimental, 20-minute poetic stage play inspired by some aspect of Carson’s life and/or writing. The new work, together with pieces by 2 other artists, will premier at The Arc, Stockton-on-Tees in the winter of 2015.
The Carson, Beadnell project
Photographer, fine artist and digital developer Melanie Ashby will be working in collaboration with me throughout 2015, and beyond. Over four seasonal artistic residencies we will be based in the coastal village of Beadnell in Northumberland (just south of Holy Island and Seahouses, UK). During this time we will employ some of Carson’s fieldwork methodologies and inspired by some familial naval logs, Carson’s writing and the coastline itself, we will be responding to the environment. This project has already secured funding from Northumberland County Council, Arts Development and Ashby & I are currently approaching a variety of potential funders in order to realise our ambitions.
Our longterm vision for this Carson project begins in Northumberland, UK but in time we hope to visit Carson archives in the US and hopefully the RC Centre in Munich and scholarly and artistic colleagues in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. Prior to the development of this international strand of the work we first want to take our time and immerse ourselves, as artists, in the Northumberland environment. We will surround ourselves with the voices of the coastline, and of Carson’s wonderful prose, and be mindful of what happens to us and our artistic practice. We do have specific outputs developing but we feel the integrity of the work rests on really being present in Beadnell. Carson spent weeks at a time a Boothbay, Maine and we want to extend her footprints to our own bit of north east coast.