Arts Council England Memorandum
29th September 2022
Arts Council England and National Landscape Association sign a landmark Memorandum of Understanding under the White Cliffs of Dover
We were proud to welcome Kent arts organisations and artists to celebrate the signing of a national Memorandum between the Arts Council England and the National Landscapes Association. The vision of this new partnership is for people to experience a deeper connection to nature, the beauty of the landscape and the environment around us through the arts.
Signed at Samphire Hoe below the White Cliffs, the Memorandum represents an important and timely strengthening of collaboration between the cultural and the landscape sectors on a local and national scale.
Art in the Kent Downs
It was a wonderful opportunity to bring Kent Arts organisations and artists together for conversation and collaboration on how we build on existing programmes such as The Ash Project and the North Downs Way Arts Trail to make the vision and aims of the Memorandum real in Kent – the ideas shared on the day are beautifully encapsulated in the graphic by visual scribe and artist Temujen Gunawardena.
We were treated to a performance by Origins Untold ‘chalk, grass, land’ exploring black British embodiments against the sharp, white background of chalk and the bristling multiplicity of grass. The work was part of the SALT+EARTH Festival celebrating our ambition to become a Cross-Channel UNESCO Global Geopark with our French neighbouring landscape. The white cliffs of the Parc Naturel Régional Des Caps et Marais d’Opale could be seen across the water as the MoU was signed.
For years, National Landscape teams around the country have commissioned or partnered on awe-inspiring art installations and activities, and the Memorandum symbolises a step change in their commitment to partnering with culture organisations to develop high-quality, ambitious art that will reach and move people and communities across England. Working in partnership under this Memorandum of Understanding means both organisations deliver on their own priorities, underpinned by joint ambitions to see more people engaging with culture and landscape, promoting opportunities, prosperity and wellbeing for rural communities, and contributing to conversations around tackling the climate emergency.
The Ambitions of the Memorandum
- See more people engaging with culture, and more people engaging with landscape. This promotes personal and community wellbeing, a connection with place and community, and opportunities for fulfilment. We believe that there is great potential for people to engage with the landscape through culture and will develop opportunities to achieve this,
- Explore the cultural opportunities from engaging artists and creatives with landscape to enhance practice in both sectors, and promote engagement,
- Harness cultural engagement to promote pro-environmental behaviours, contribute to sustainability and tackle the climate emergency,
- Generate greater collaboration between the landscape and cultural sectors to promote wellbeing, strengthening communities and helping build prosperity in rural communities,
- Build on the ambitions of the National Landscapes Association and across the National Landscape family to embed culture in the future of the National Landscape sector.
Sir Nicholas Serota, chair of Arts Council England said: “The natural environment has inspired artists and writers through the ages. Today, awareness of our environment feeds our imagination, greatly benefits our wellbeing, and broadens our understanding of the climate challenges we face.
“Today’s signing represents further ambitions to deepen our appreciation and engagement with England’s rural landscapes, and their surrounding communities. Reflected through the Arts Council’s commitment to environmental responsibility, this Memorandum highlights the important, crucial connection between culture and the landscape.”
Philip Hygate, chair of the National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty said: “England’s 34 National Landscapes are deeply committed to working with art and culture organisations. We have seen that when National Landscapes Partnerships and artists come together, the results add up to far more than the sum of their parts, creating experiences that will live long in people’s memories. This agreement with Arts Council England provides a framework for us to do more of this invaluable work and enable more people to develop a relationship with the landscapes on their own terms.”
Nick Johannsen, Director of the Kent Downs National Landscape said: ‘We’re really proud of our work with artists and local arts organisations. We see the arts as an exciting way to support the careful exploration and celebration of beautiful landscapes and respond to the environmental challenges we all face. Our job is a positive one; to celebrate and enhance the natural beauty of the landscape, increase the abundance of nature, respond to climate change and to engage people in that journey. Throughout history, the arts and artists have found and celebrated beauty and have been catalysts for change. We want to harness the positive intentions of the memorandum and build on our work and relationships, here in Kent, so that we can create fantastic new work and engage many more people in the sharing the joy of our beautiful places.
North Downs Way Arts Trail Launching in 2023
We are creating a new arts trail that celebrates local heritage, inspiring views, nearby communities, and surrounding wildlife as well as encouraging visitors to explore the beautiful Kent and Surrey countryside.
The North Downs Way Art Trail will have nine sculptures installed along the 153 mile route to attract and encourage visitors to stop, rest and enjoy some of the beautiful views between Dover in Kent to Farnham in Surrey.
Due to launch in February 2023, each artwork will reflect the special characteristics of its unique location, be made from sustainable materials and act as a sculptural seat to allow visitors a chance to sit, reflect and relax surrounded by wonderful and inspiring art, history and nature.
In addition, each piece will be supported by a range of downloadable self-guided walking and/or cycling routes that will make visiting the sites even easier.
The Kent Downs National Landscape team already have good partnerships with many arts organisations in Kent and great work has been completed. Now on the back of the Memorandum we want to build on those relationships and create new ones to build new, ambitious artistic programmes across and beyond the Downs. We invite anyone who is excited by this prospect to get in touch and let’s build something together.
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