Introducing new project ‘Garden to Garden’ with South Cliff Gardens, Scarborough

Posted on 17.06.2020

A time to be alive to the vulnerability – and vitality – of the natural world

In an exciting new partnership with Scarborough’s Victorian-era South Cliff Gardens, Invisible Dust is delighted to launch ‘Garden to Garden‘, a programme that will explore the changing ways we see, hear and experience nature; all through the lens of bees

In these unusual times, as many of us are forced to slow down and stay home, we gain an opportunity to see deeper into our home worlds, and by doing so, realise that we are far from alone within these micro-universes – and in our communities. A garden, be it our own modest patch, window box or our local public green space, offers the perfect setting for some creative exploration that delves deep and close, into the natural world that surrounds us

Led by visual artist Feral Practice with the support of sound artist Rob Mackay, in collaboration with a range of scientists and researchers from across the UK, this digital programme will connect a global digital network of people exploring their own green spaces to South Cliff Gardens; an inspiring expanse of sea-facing public gardens in Scarborough which began development in the mid 19th Century. Managed by Scarborough Borough Council, the gardens are currently being restored with the help of National Lottery Heritage Fund and the National Lottery Community Fund.

Through a variety of accessible online engagement activities and a final film celebrating our bees, ‘Garden to Garden’ will bring us into creative dialogue with the insects and nature that we coexist with – and depend on. From learning from the Victorians with an Insect and flower Identification guide to going on Micro-Cosmic Journeys and ‘Ento-Sleuthing’ with hand held microscope and more, we will explore how Victoria entomologists learnt about their subjects –  and see how it compares with and influences the way entomologists collect data and study today.

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Listening to our bees:

As we experience heightened awareness of our own vulnerability in the face of Covid-19, many of us have an increased sensitivity to the vulnerability and losses of other species and to our interdependence with the wider natural world. Can we mobilise our enforced hiatus from ‘business as usual’ to build more sensitive relationships to the living world we are part of, dependent on, and responsible to?

Insects are rarely seen as glamorous or charismatic, despite their astonishing beauty and variety, yet we are more dependent on these little creatures than any other animal group. Humans are directly reliant on pollinating insects for our food and the fertility of our planet – however widespread pesticide use, habitat loss, climate change, and globalised disease vectors have proved devastating to bee populations worldwide. Bees are especially vulnerable because they are directly impacted by industrial bee farming; commercial bees not only compete for forage, but harbour disease and parasites that are passed to wild bees via shared flowers. 

To explore their beauty and fragility, sound artist Rob Mackay will be delving deep into the soundscapes of bees with miniature mics expertly designed to work on the microscopic level – such as the one below:

Looking back to look forward:

Garden to Garden‘ is an opportunity to reflect where we are as a people and planet, and to look back at the past and connect ourselves to some of the ways of being that we have perhaps lost – and can learn from again.  

“In front from end to end, stretches a well-kept road, where seats, fixed at frequent intervals,afford a pleasurable resting-place; and from this a great slope descends to the beach, all embowered with trees and shrubs, through which here and there you get a glimpse of a gravelled path or the domed roof of a summer-house. And there, two hundred feet below, is the Spa – a castellated building protected by a sea wall, within which a broad road slopes gently to the sands. You see visitors descending through the grove for their morning draught of the mineral water, or assisting the effect by a “constitutional” on the promenade beneath; while hundreds stroll beside the sands”. 

South Cliff Gardens described in 1858

Taking as its starting point the South Cliff Garden’s Victorian legacy of passionate exploration of the natural world, ‘Garden to Garden’ will explore two centuries of evolving technology, methods and attitudes to nature; it will focus on the relationship between the Past and Present, the Macro and Micro and the Global and Local.  The gardens inspired the creation of many more seaside resorts across the UK and played a key role in the Victorian era of naturalist and botany exploration.

The formation of the South Cliff Gardens came at the time of both Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace and Mary Anning whose research and understanding of the Natural World brought the Victorians closer to nature and changed the world’s thinking on how we relate to plants and animals. Scarborough is notable for its expertise in natural history, with local societies being active in recording and collecting since the mid 19th century, significant collections held by Scarborough Museum, and the (now digitized) Natural History of the Scarborough District (Rimington, F.C. and Walsh, George B., 1953) as powerful benchmarks for biodiversity comparison.

Educational Resources:

Garden to Garden’ will launch a range of free artist-created digital resources and activities for children and young people aged 8-12 and their families to help inspire a new generation of nature explorers across Scarborough and worldwide – available online (on both Invisible Dust’s and South Cliff Garden’s new website) from mid July 2020.

New film work:

A new HD short film will examine our current moment through the hand lens of botany and with the focusing lens of history. Created by Feral Practice with sound in collaboration with Rob Mackay, this film will reveal the diverse and fascinating lifeworlds of social, bumble and solitary bees and other pollinators visiting our gardens. It will discuss the existential threats to insects in the context of our current human experience of Covid 19 and related enviro-social challenges. The visuals will bring together film and field recordings of bees and pollinators with archival footage from South Cliff Gardens, interviews with scientists and research partners and conversations with a range of Scarborough residents and user groups.

Our Partners:

Garden to Garden‘ is commissioned by Invisible Dust in partnership with the South Cliff Gardens National Lottery Heritage Fund Team, Scarborough Borough Council, with the support of the Wellcome Trust and Arts Council England.

Research for ‘Garden to Garden’ is informed by scientists at Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity at University of York, Yorkshire Naturalists Union, Scarborough Field Naturalists Society, and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

Our Artists:

Find out more about the artists at their artist page on our website:

Feral Practice

Rob Mackay

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