The installation was inspired by a desire to draw attention to the threat to our coastal fringes from the rising sea levels that are a consequence of global warming, and the opportunity that the artists believe we all have to change our behaviour to ameliorate that risk. The film forms part of an education pack which is being delivered to all Suffolk’s Junior, Middle, and independent Prep Schools. (View the Film)
Peter Howard-Dobson (R 65-69) also got drawn into the mix. Back in April last year Purplesnail discovered that they needed all sorts of permits to allow them to install their fibreglass beach huts, which were to run down the beach into the sea, and the local council was naturally very concerned about public safety. Peter volunteered to take on the role of project manager and soon roped-in some vital (and free) help from local engineering consultants J P Chick and Partners. Peter says, “without Chick’s help, the story would have ended right there. The wave pressures that the lower huts would have to withstand were immense, and Chicks not only did the structural analysis and designs, but also persuaded a number of other East Anglian engineers to donate their work and skills – in particular, DJ Evans, the micropiling specialists, and Brooks & Wood, who have lots of experience of beach-work and the construction of sea defences”.
Eventually, after satisfying Suffolk Coastal District Council that there would be no danger to the public, and convincing the Marine Fisheries Agency that no toxic deposits were going to be put into the sea, all the various permits came through – and with only a few days to go before some mid-August low tides that were critical to the success of the venture.
The installation was formally opened by the Mayor of Felixstowe on the 23rd August, and was a big crowd-puller for “Art on the Prom” the following weekend. This event coincided with a good high tide in the middle of the day, which meant that people could swim and paddle canoes round the most seaward hut.
Then, at dusk, those who stayed were treated to the magical transformation of the rather utilitarian structures into what looked like delicate Chinese paper lanterns as their interior lights came on.
Sadly, a bad storm on the 2nd September broke one of the huts off its pilings, and threw the 650Kg structure 30m up the beach, damaging one of the other huts en-route. Reluctantly, Purplesnail decided that, having met the team’s principal objectives, it would probably be best to remove the remaining huts a couple of weeks earlier than planned, and so the good folk from Brooks & Wood were called-in once again.
Timing is everything in this life and, no sooner had the huts been removed, than the BBC’s “Look East” turned up to shoot their own film about the project, only to find that they were too late – perhaps Adam should send them his!
All Photographs are © Catherine Howard-Dobson.