Now seemingly a year-round venture, with new owner, Tina Morris, at the helm, Coastal Currents is still making the headlines. Here, she discusses a missing piece of the 2017 programme

With bravery of programming, comes risk. But who would want bland and conservative in place like Hastings and St Leonards? Bravery is in our bones. So, in the spirit of aiming for a Festival which pushes ahead and does things differently, I am currently embroiled in planning permission for a piece which we hoped would be up for the 2017 festival and now looks more likely to be installed at the start of the 2018 festival.

This work is a tribute to Robert Tressell, author of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, a much-loved and under-celebrated fellow, yet so very relevant to our town spirit – and certainly unsung on a national level. Coastal Currents has worked with Greg Shapter, a London-based artist from California, to create a single-point perspective piece, which will be manufactured locally and installed in a prominent public location in Silverhill.

With the intention of bringing a piece of impactful public art to a location in St Leonards that would perhaps benefit from it more than the usual seafront locations, Coastal Currents took a 3D route commissioning something completely original.

However, there has been a bump in the delivery of this exciting new piece, with the East Sussex County Council Highways Authority recommending that it may be a distraction to drivers. Rather than take this lying down, even although the Festival is over for 2017 and funding has run out, I have decided to push this issue through to a planning committee meeting. This has required a super speedy gathering of the troops with a physical signed petition: I’m never let down by the amazing support I receive in this town for the arts, whenever I need it and no matter the deadline.

The main line of objection is based around the fact that art near roads can increase the accident rate, when, in fact, all evidence seems to point to the contrary. Sustrans, a charity which makes it easier to walk and cycle in the UK, says that art slows drivers down and it is widely accepted that any slowing of speed reduces accidents.

By this logic Piccadilly Circus or The Angel of the North would never have been allowed, the former now deliberately providing advertising to drivers in individual cars. Our piece won’t be lit up. It won’t be bright, luminous, flashing or ask you to stop and buy something. It has been thought out so it can only really be seen effectively by pedestrians in one specific spot – hence, the single-point perspective. It has been designed and commissioned carefully and with consideration.

Coastal Currents wants to bring permanent pieces to the town which would, in a manner fit to Tressell himself, be visible and accessible to all. There seems little point in hiding these works away or putting them in places people where won’t see them: they are pieces of public art for the sake of the enjoyment of all, so they need to be in prominent positions and prominent positions almost always include a road.

So, let’s hope the sensible decision is made to allow this piece to go ahead as many pieces have been, across the country and, indeed, the world, on walls above roads, on junctions and even motorways.


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