Spring Newsletter 2019

Since our last newsletter in Autumn 2018 our main involvement has been with two projects in two of the most exciting sites in Dover. The projects, it goes without saying, are culture led and have the potential to greatly extend the cultural offer in Dover.

The first is in the Kearsney Parks, where extensive work is taking place with a major HLF funded project to restore the Thomas Mawson garden in Russell Gardens and build a new café in Kearsney Abbey. Dover District Council’s Art in the Park – Kearsney Interpreted project, that sits within the larger HLF project is curated by DAD and co-delivered with Dover District Council and funded by Arts Council England. We are nearing the end of the project with 8 of the 10 residencies now completed with the launch of Alma Tischlerwood’s Alice sculpture on June 1st.

The videos that Phil Saunders, Louise Webb, Jamie Jenkinson and Clare Smith made for the project were screened at the Silver Screen cinema in Dover, along with the DAD Park Bench video production that highlighted the work of 58 poets, visual artists and musicians from Dover and the surrounding area. There are moves to make these works available more regularly to park visitors in the new cafe as well on the Kearsney Parks website.

Art in the Park – Kearsney Interpreted has launched Kearsney Abbey and Russell Gardens as cultural venues with more opportunities for artists expected in the future.

A legacy of the project will be an advocacy document comprising : a ‘how-to’ guide for artists working with local authorities & local authorities working with artists.

Much conflict is avoidable once the different approaches and priorities of artists and the local authority, and the different pressures and constraints each party is working to are understood. Key to this is to get past the facelessness of the labels of ‘council’ or ‘artist’ and bring the parties face to face at the beginning of a commission and at regular intervals during the development process. This is time consuming but essential for the artist to feel supported in their creative endeavor and for the local authority to be able to voice their anxieties and flag up constraints as they arise during the development phase. An artist’s commission is process driven and although there will be an initial idea, this idea will have to be adapted and developed until the realisation of the final work. In the case of the Kearsney commissions, 2 of the artists had to apply for planning permission, one of which was successful but the other not, and three had wanted to use the chalk stream in a way that was then deemed unacceptable by the Environment Agency. Due to the excellent relationship that was built up between the council officer, Anita Sedgewick, assigned to this project, and the artists, useful discussions helped negotiate these obstacles, leading to successful outcomes, which it must never be forgotten is what both parties ultimately are wanting to achieve. These learnings will inform the end-of-project advocacy document.

The second site is Fort Burgoyne and most specifically its West Wing. The Land Trust, who own Fort Burgoyne, and the Pioneering Places project have recently commissioned a team, managed by Chris Valdus, the Fort Burgoyne Heritage Project Manager, to help develop and trial ideas for the Fort and its West Wing for future public use and enjoyment as well as to stabilise and conserve the historic structures as they stand.

Pioneering Places is part of the national Great Places Scheme, an ambitious project that will make East Kent an even better place to live, work and visit by exploring heritage, developing civic pride and connecting artists and communities. Four projects in Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone and Ramsgate are being led by cultural organisations to encourage local people to get involved and shape the place where they live. Supported through Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with Historic England and Artswork, the South East Bridge.

It is as part of Pioneering places that Charles Holland Associates and DAD developed their Explorers programme for the West Wing: a series of Sunday morning walks each led by a local expert. Each of the walks has led us to the West Wing Battery via a different route, seen through a particular set of eyes. They have mapped the West Wing and its relationship to Dover through the lens of military and architectural history as well as lived and day-today experience. Collectively they have allowed us to place the West Wing within the historical and contemporary context of Dover and have generated ideas about its future use. These ideas will become part of the visioning for the West Wing Battery as a space to be used by the existing community as well as the new community that will arrive once the new houses adjacent to the site and on the former barracks land at Fort Burgoyne are built. The immediate context for the West Wing will thus be a new one, the Explorers helping shape that new relationship.

All the ideas that were noted down or drawn on small green weatherproof notebooks by participants of the walks are being collected and summarised by Charles Holland onto a ‘Big Drawing’ that will become the legacy community engagement document. DAD is now developing the artist’s brief and call out process for artists for a new commission for an artwork on the site.

It is very exciting to be part of the process of these two outstanding Dover venues placing culture firmly at the core of their ambitions.