A flotilla of fishing boats have appeared in Leigh Woods, Bristol, for an art installation commissioned by the National Trust. Withdrawn, an ambitious new installation by celebrated artist Luke Jerram will open to the public on 18 April and be on show until 6 September 2015. The project is one of six Arts Council England Exceptional projects, coordinated by Bristol Cultural Development Partnership.
Visitors will discover the unexpected flotilla of fishing boats resting in a tranquil glade, prompting the questions – how did the boats arrive here? Were they left by an extreme tidal surge or a changing coast line? Or are the abandoned boats the effect of over fishing, causing fish stocks to collapse and with it the industry? The names of the fishing boats, ‘Gloria Jean’, ‘Joanne Marie’, ‘Martha’, ‘Seahorse’ and ‘Grey Gull’ conjure up the personalities of previous owners.
The result of conversations with fishermen, scientists, and specialists in marine life, celebrated local artist Luke Jerram created Withdrawn to encourage us to reflect upon the impact humanity is having on our seas. Whether it is through commercial exploitation in overfishing, or climate change and pollution, the future of this complex environment is uncertain.
The five boats can be discovered through a spring or summer walk in the woods or audiences can attend one of the series of events taking place throughout the summer from choral performances, theatre, lectures and live film events.
I wanted to raise awareness around the decline of the fishing industry in the South West. For several decades, unsustainable fishing practices, have caused fish stocks of many species to collapse. With less fish in the sea, it’s often not financially viable to use a small fishing vessel to fish with. Withdrawn is also a response to the extreme weather and apocalyptic imagery we’ve seen in the media recently – the floods on the Somerset Levels last winter and further afield, Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami in Japan, where cars were floating down streets and houses submerged in water.
The positioning of these boats in Leigh Woods presents a similarly uncanny scenario that reminds us of a possible future if we don’t address climate change now. I hope Withdrawn will appeal to different audiences in different ways as the seasons change and events bring in people from diverse walks of life.
The exciting programme of events will explore the many and different ways we connect to the sea. The programme of Withdrawn events opens on the 25 April with a Bristol Youth Choir performance of songs inspired by the sea. Following on from this, on the 3-4 July, cyclists will be invited to a Two-wheeled drive-in style movie night. Then on the 26 July, families will be welcome to cycle with Sustrans to the boats for a picnic and nautical themed storytelling.
Withdrawn will also provide a dramatic backdrop for performances of The Tempest, staged by the Butterfly Theatre as part of Bristol Shakespeare Festival from 11-17 July. In addition, Mayfest will host a series of Nightwalks with Tom Bailey starting on 14 May. The programme will culminate on 23 August with a talk by the Cabot Institute, University of Bristol, which will explore the challenges of environmental change.
Ruth Gooding, Contemporary Arts Programme Manager for the National Trust’s Trust New Art Bristol explains;
We are delighted to work with Luke to create this thought provoking installation for Leigh Woods – a beautiful environment that we care for in partnership with the Forestry Commission. We know how important this special woodland is, and we hope that visitors will enjoy discovering all the different trees, plants and wildlife as they make their way towards Withdrawn.
The work is enchanting but also unsettling, a paradox which makes a clear message – our natural environment is under threat and we need to re-evaluate the balance between ourselves and our natural resources. The programme of events opens this conversation – it is both a celebration of our seas and oceans and a forum to start exploring what a more sustainable future might look like.
Withdrawn will be open from 9:00–17:00 from 18 April to 6 September 2015 and open in evenings for our special events.
Visitors are invited to walk, bus or cycle to the site in keeping with the environmental message of the project.
The project was commissioned by the National Trust, working in partnership with Arts Council England. It is one of six arts projects funded by the Arts Council England, Exceptional Fund, as part of Bristol’s year as European Green Capital.
Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West, Arts Council England, said;
This is an exciting and engaging project from an exceptional artist that will certainly capture the imagination of visitors to Leigh Woods. Putting culture right at the heart of Bristol’s year as European Green Capital means many people will be inspired – and provoked – by great art that encourages us all to think about the way we live.