As part of the Impact Fellowship award, Professor Mike Pearson (Aberystwyth University) was commissioned to create a new performance 'soundwork'. Throughout the original programme, performance emerged as a key theme and performance works proved to be a highly successful method of researching landscape and environment. They also effectively extended the scope and depth of public engagement with both the research completed and the landscapes and environments that were the subjects of individual projects. It is for these reasons that a piece of performance has been included as one of the main outputs of the Impact Fellowship.
Working in collaboration with composer John Hardy (Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama), Mike has created a piece called Warplands that combines text and musical composition. Created in both live and web-based forms, Warplands builds directly upon the approaches and techniques pioneered in the AHRC Landscape and Environment programme funded Carrlands project, and is influenced by his participation in the Living in a Material World network.
Warplands is situated in North Lincolnshire, and is inspired and influenced by a number of different sites, landscapes and environmental processes. The sites include:
Julian's Bower is a unicursal turf maze, 43 feet (13 m) across, lying in a small depression on a small plateau close to the cliff edge at Alkborough. It may be of Roman or Medieval origin, the earliest firm documentary evidence dating from 1697 when it was noted by the Yorkshire antiquary Abraham de la Pryme.
Alkborough Flats is the first coastal realignment site to be developed as part of the Humber Shoreline Management Plan and the UK’s largest managed realignment site. The site is managed to encourage biodiversity and the development of a variety of different habitats including inter-tidal mudflats, fresh and salt-water reed beds as well as wet and dry grassland.
Ousefleet According to the Ordnance Survey Landranger map series (comprising 320,000 squares) a field in North Lincolnshire is the most featureless part of the UK. The square kilometre on the outskirts of the village of Ousefleet, near Scunthorpe, has nothing in it except a single electricity pylon and some overhanging cable (Grid reference SE830220 on map 112).
The text draws upon the published work of early topographers, regional archival and literary sources and the perceptions of experts in cognate disciplines as well as maps and photographs in order to illuminate the historically and culturally diverse ways in which a particular landscape has been made, used, reused and interpreted and to help make sense of the multiplicity of meanings that resonate from it.
The soundwork is in two movements, created around the notion of prospect: one located at the turf maze at Alkborough and looking down from the limestone escarpment; and one at Ousefleet in the warplands themselves, looking out from.
The overall aim of Warplands was to enhance the public appreciation and understanding of apparently deserted places and to explicate the processes of landscape formation and the role of human agency in acts of drainage, warping and forfeiture: how did this place come to be as it is; and what will it shortly become? How might one encounter, engage with, and describe landscapes lacking monumentality and conventional scenic heritage, without those features that arrest the eye and around which a scene coalesces? It also aims to strengthen local and regional regard for landscapes off the beaten track: to occasion a critical reappraisal of the inherent qualities of places rarely visited.
Steve, Charlotte and Lucy visited Julian's Bower and Alkborough Flats on 25th March 2011. Mike Pearson led us on a tour of the landscape and introduced us to Warplands.
Performing Geographies Workshop
The second workshop in the Impact Fellowship series, 'Performing Geographies' took place in North Lincolnshire on the 5th and 6th June 2011 with participants visiting sites mentioned in the 'soundwork', and engaging with the conceptualisation of the performance.
Live at RGS-IBG Annual Conference
Warplands was premiered at the Royal Geographical Society with Institute of British Geographers Annual Conference in London on 1st September 2011.
Exhibition Road Music Day
Warplands was screened at the Royal Geographical Society during the 2012 Exhibition Road Music Day on 23rd June.