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“A creative research project exploring the transgressive potential of art and making to engage groups of citizens and experts in imaginative conceptions of alternative environmental narratives.”

University of Gothenberg Sweden, University of Waginingen, Netherlands, Plymouth College of Art

Funded by Seed box Sweden


July 2018



“Taking place in 3 countries, ‘collective residencies’ brought together an intergenerational group of people who played, ate, (re)imagined, learned and created together, designing alternative futures around a ‘global’ issue, exploring what needs to be disrupted to realise these imagined realities; what is working with us and what is working against us?”

The findings from three international projects informed global research that explores sustainability and creative problem solving.



​RETREAT dealt with the impact of sea level rise on coastal communities, rethinking how we should live when our homes and lives start to be affected by climate change. Bringing together a diverse group of people with different skills and expertise; citizens with local knowledge about the place where they live, policy-makers designing the future of our coasts, artists with the ability to creatively address challenges, and scientists with background knowledge of the issue.

​As children and teenagers are the future inhabitants of our coasts, they were included in these conversations simultaneously helping adults to creatively and playfully re-imagine issues.

7 families participated in the imagined disruption scenario, presented via an emergency public briefing video, which informed participants their homes were under devastating threat of being submerged by rising sea level. The families found they were indeed in ‘Deep Water’.  Permitted to select sentimental or essential items, the group retreated to a holding camp where they had limited time to rediscover what they would miss, what were their needs and how they could successfully move forward into a different and changing world knowing what they know now.


Co designed by Artist, educator Sian (Blunt) Pilley, School Of Outdoor Art,  IOL professionally recognised Outdoor Practioner Drew Pilley of and Artist and Lecturer Dr Natalia Eernstman, Plymouth College of Art, shaped the creative journey on which the participants were led underpinned by Maslows Hierarchy of Need.

The land became a platform for the 4 days of activities, situated on higher ground from the base camp where basic needs were met. Housed under 2 canvas structures creative, emotional and intellectual needs were actualised.


The 'Boat Barrow' our collaboratively designed and constructed 'vessel' that would voyage forth...carrying the creative cargo safely and amphibiously, was ceremoniously launched with music song and naming ceremony. Selected pieces adorned the hull, deck and bow as a mobile art gallery. Collectively naming her we selected our 'entries' at a village fete, where we became judges of our own 'Best in Show' pieces complete with rosettes and food raffle framed beneath the bunting.


  • Ceramics held our vulnerability, our insecurities, representing what we could not leave behind or our 'home comforts' we would miss and have come to rely on. The fragility of our securities. The insecurities of our securities.


  • Copper Talismans engraved affirmations of our strengths our riches our omens, that we would take forward on this unknown journey – intentions we would hope to meet on the way, offering protection from hostilities and manifesting our hopes at our new destinations.            


  • Our Stick people community – represented our need for support from each other. Stronger though our family and community connections.

“Barrowboat - archiving relics and items of our belonging”

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