Time and Tide Bell – Embedded Researcher pitch

The Time and Tide Bell project is a creative initiative that comprises a series of sculptural bells positioned at the high tide point around the United Kingdom coastline that are rung by the action of the waves. They celebrate and reinforce connections in local communities: between the land and sea; between different parts of the country; between ourselves and our environment. The project has been running for 15 years.

Conceived and created by sculptor Marcus Vergette, these public artworks are gifted to the communities which host them. Each bell is installed through a collaboration with local residents, and the supporting structure is designed to reflect the character of the location.

There are currently seven bells installed, at the following locations: Appledore, Devon; Bosta, Isle of Lewis; Trinity Buoy Wharf, London; Aberdyfi, Gwynedd; Cemaes, Anglesey; Morecambe, Lancashire; and Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire. Six further bell installations are currently under development, in Par, Cornwall; Brixham, Devon; Redcar, Yorkshire; Harwich, Essex; Happisburgh, Norfolk; and Ventnor on the Isle of Wight.

Interest in climate resilience

Coastal communities and landscapes in the UK are on the frontline of the climate change (CCC, 2018). Though sea level rise, like many indicators of climate change, is regularly stated as a globally uniform figure, the Time and Tide Bell sculptures are a physical translation of what this comes to mean in a local context. We are keenly aware that the Time and Tide Bell communities are threated by climate change in myriad ways and hope to explore the ways in which these works of public art may contribute to enhancing resilience to these threats.

In many of the communities that host a bell, these sculptures have become a catalyst of engagement with the local environment and amongst a local community. They have acted as centrepieces for outdoor learning programmes, citizen science initiatives, solstice celebrations, and a series of art exhibitions. As research suggests that local networks and social cohesion enhance the resilience of a community with regard to environmental change (Prior and Eriksen, 2013; Aldrich and Meyer, 2015), we are keen to explore how to best harness the potential of these sculptures to operate as a gathering point for relationship building and collective e action.

Motivation for being involved in the scheme

We can already see how the bells are subtly acting as catalysts for active engagement with place and community. Hosting an embedded researcher would allow for an active exploration of how they may come to catalyse and facilitate more deliberate collective activities of resilience-building in the face of climate change.

Working with a researcher, we can begin to look more deeply at the dynamics between community and artwork and consider the scope that exists for developing climate resilience initiatives that join the two. We can offer a platform for important action-research into how art may play a role in enhancing climate resilience in the United Kingdom.

The scheme offers a valuable opportunity to gather insights and develop recommendations to benefit not only this initiative and its role in developing climate resilience, but for creative initiatives elsewhere.

Ideas for research topics or knowledge brokering activities

Considering managed retreat

It is likely that some UK coastal communities will be unviable in their current form (CCC, 2018). However, the issue of managed retreat is rarely addressed in pre-emptive circumstances (Lawrence et al., 2020). We propose a research project that begins to explore the potential of the Time and Tide Bell sculptures as gathering points for conversations about coastal resilience to climate change, including the often neglected and sometimes contentious issue of managed retreat.

An embedded researcher would be invited to spend time with the Time and Tide Bell team, but also with one or more of the communities that hosts a bell. We would encourage the use of action-research, working with key individuals within the community to initiate a consideration of managed retreat, placing the bell at the centre of the process. This collaborative approach would allow for capacity-building that would then remain within the community itself.

Moving towards climate action

Action on climate change is long overdue. Our aim is that the bells, in their role as an emblem, motif or allegory of the need for change, can also act as a rallying point for concrete activity at a community level. We are developing a programme whose goal is to support local communities in developing activity – suited to their circumstances – that will make a meaningful contribution to their resilience in respect of climate change. There is a possibility that this may have overlap with the topic above.

An embedded researcher could play several roles in this: to explore and develop insights from work that has already taken place in this field, for example in the IPPR’s climate commons programme; to help develop and deliver the interventions necessary to achieve the project’s goals; and to document the process, to contribute to broader understanding.

Get in touch with Time and Tide Bell

Researchers who would like to discuss this Embedded Researcher pitch with Time and Tide Bell should contact Peter Gingold on peterg@timeandtidebell.org

Back to the Embedded Researchers funding page

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