Wednesday, 18 March 2009

More stories from the cliff edge

Shanty Town in Skipsea, Yorkshire is a fascinating place - a row of chalets made out of wood and some train waggons. The buildings are literally sitting a few meters from the edge and many has fallen in to the sea over the years. Recently the residents have got planning permission to build 70 meters or so back from the cliff edge, so they should be safe for a bit longer. I met Trevor who have had to cut his house in half to save it from the sea. He says the salt water destroys everything and he can't keep up with the paint work or justify spending money on it.

Saffron is an Sculptor who have made Skipsea her home, she had an exhibition in Hull last year titled: Tides of R-Evolution that was about the community and their relationship with the environment. Now Saffron will be building an Eco house made out of straw bales on the land behind her present house. I also met a lady called Janet who had old postcards from Skipsea in the 1950's - a whole road and street of houses have disappeared into the sea since then. Janet's family had a caravan there back then but that land is long gone. Janet has a real interest in the erosion and dug out a load of photographs she had taken over the years. Her house is about 1 km inland and she told me she did not buy a house nearer the sea because of the erosion. Her perspective is interesting because she is not directly affected but she knows most of the people in the village who are. She is sympathetic but she also points out that there are people who bought big nice houses for a lot less than the actual prize in the area just because of the risk of erosion. The problem seem to be that they have been told that the erosion is a lot less than it actually is in some places, an average is measured in studies and can not foresee that several meters will just suddenly disappear. It seems clear that nobody really knows, their are so many different theories about sea defences, what works and what doesn't. Sea defences in one place speeds up erosion further down the coast where there are non. It is not just the sea who contributes to erosion, it is just as much the surfaces water coming of the cliffs.

I have been struggling to find people to participate in the project. I just feel that it is to intrusive to knock on people's doors, that the issue is a bit sensitive. John suggested in one of our tutorials that I write a letter and drop through people's letter boxes - a great idea that for some weird reason never crossed my mind. Thanks to having printed photographs to give and a letter explaining what I'm doing, it was a lot easier to get talking to people. I met many people outside because the weather was nice. Some people were happy to be interviewed but not photographed which is fine because their stories are fascinating in itself.
I'm still not quite sure how the project will look when finished, the landscapes taken from the beach looking up seems to be the most effective. I took some pictures inside Saffron's house, I was interested to see how they would work together with the landscapes but it does not quite do it for me. Maybe I'm trying to do to many things... I really need to think about this, aesthetically it is not working. I'm not even sure the people shots fit with the landscapes but I so want them to.


Michael Barrientos said...

Anna, you're doing wonderful work. I really enjoyed sitting in on your Adam tutorial last week.

David Pendleton said...

Dear Anna,

I'm studying the 'plotlands' of the Yorkshire Coast for an MA at Leeds Met University. I've surveyed the coast from Spurn to the Tees, the Skipsea group is the only remaining authentic plotland remaining, the rest have been transformed into bungalows.

If you want to drop me a line I'm at