Community art on Swanage concrete blocks highlights coastal efforts

PAINTED panels have been installed on wave barriers in Swanage to raise awareness of coastal protection efforts in the town.

The community art trail project aims to raise awareness of the Swanage Town Coastal Protection Scheme, featuring 70 painted panels installed on the temporary concrete blocks on the seafront.

Swanage attracts thousands of visitors each spring and summer for the beauty of its wide and accessible sweeping bay on the Jurassic coast.

In winter, however, residents and businesses have experienced the more challenging aspects of coastal life – when rising sea levels and easterly storms can cause coastal flooding and debris from the sea can litter the roadways.

The defences in Swanage before the art was installed. Pictures: Sara Parker

The defences in Swanage before the art was installed. Pictures: Sara Parker

As part of the coastal protection scheme, concrete temporary seasonal wave barriers are installed by the Environment Agency each year between October and April to help protect the town from coastal flooding.
In partnership, Dorset Council, the Environment Agency and Swanage Town Council are working to reach a permanent flood protection solution.

A disability report commissioned by Swanage Town Council in November last year highlighted the barriers were too grey for the visually-impaired to safely see.

In response, Dorset Coast Forum project officer, Sara Parker, put forward to the Environment Agency a proposal to not only highlight the blocks adequately but provide the community of Swanage with an art trail project on a large scale.

Dorset Coast Forum project officer, Sara Parker, put forward the proposal. Pictures: Sara Parker

Dorset Coast Forum project officer, Sara Parker, put forward the proposal. Picture: Swanage News

Using the knowledge of visually-impaired resident Hatty Greenway, who became the project’s VI Advisor, the art trail idea was developed to help solve this issue, raise awareness of coastal flood protection, and provide an enjoyable and colourful winter resource for all.

Hatty said: “I love Swanage, it is a wonderful place to live. My reason for joining the art trail project was to help make Swanage more visually accessible for everyone with a disability and bring it to life.

“It has been a pleasure to be part of the project. I hope the trail makes everyone see the beauty of the Purbecks in a whole new light.”

Artist Andy Knill suggested a title for the art trail and ‘Flooding Swanage with Art’ was born.

The panels are 'flooding Swanage with art'. Pictures: Sara Parker

The panels are ‘flooding Swanage with art’. Pictures: Sara Parker

The title can be viewed in the artwork at the start of the art trail at The Mowlem Slipway and is featured in braille tiles created by Dorset ceramicist Lynne Dinmore in Heritage Square.

Taking eight weeks to install, the community art project has brought together six artists, three local schools, Swanage Youth Club, Swanage Scouts, town businesses, as well as organisations such as Allsort’d, who support young disabled people in Swanage.

Additional financial support came from business sponsors, including Swanage & Purbeck Rotary, Shoreside, Chococco, the East Bar and The Ship Inn.

The artists were inspired by the young people of Swanage to celebrate the features and heritage of the four art trail locations.

The Stone Quay Slipway location also features ‘The People’s Panels’, created during a free public art workshop on October 14, led by one of the art trail artists and Swanage resident, Sophie Jenkins.

People's panels on the wave defences in Swanage. Pictures: Sara Parker

People’s panels on the wave defences in Swanage. Pictures: Sara Parker

An art trail leaflet provides information on the themes and artists at each location, available in printed form from Swanage Information Centre, library and at outlets around the town.

A reference large print version for the visually impaired will also be available at Swanage Information Centre, located near to the start of the art trail.

Meanwhile, four free, guided Talking Art Walks with artist Andy Knill will run, starting from his studio on Commercial Road, Swanage.

They will run between 11am and noon on:
• November 24, 2023
• December 19, 2023
• January 24, 2024
• February 16, 2024

A Grand Opening Ceremony is set to take place on Friday (November 3), meeting in Heritage Square at 3.30pm with the Mayor of Swanage, Cllr Tina Foster, the artists and the Swanage Town Crier.

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